By Danny Baggott @DAN_BAGGIE

CONJOINED twins, Neev and Nelly Kolestein, have been attached by the back of their heads for 18 years – but that hasn’t stopped their determination to change the way people view disability

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Videographer / director: Stijn Brinkmann
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote  
Editor: Marcus Cooper

Despite only ever seeing each other through a reflection in a mirror, Neev and Nelly have formed an unbreakable bond and admit they would never want to be separated from each other.

As Craniopagus twins, the girls are a medical phenomenon; representing just two to six percent of conjoined twins worldwide, they are the rarest form.

Doctors didn’t think they would survive birth, and if they did, they predicted they would live a poor standard of life until they reached 10 years old.

Proving all the odds wrong, Neev and Nelly are still thriving as 18-year-old girls, who can never be separated due to sharing an important vein in the head. 

Living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, they have now started their own YouTube channel and Instagram page, aiming to raise awareness of their condition and show people how they are much more than just ‘the girls with a disability’. 

Nelly said: “When we were new-borns, everyone thought we were going to die.

“But we’re here now. We’re 18 years old and we’re standing firm on our four feet.”

Neev added: “Our bodies are separate, but we’re conjoined by the head.

“Everyone thinks we can reach other’s minds. But we can’t.

“We have our own thoughts. It means we can both do our own thing, with you know, walking and talking.”

The girls were originally born in Suriname, South America, but due to the lack of medical resource, they had to move to the Netherlands for more urgent and specialised care soon after they were born.

And thanks to the support of their mother and siblings, Timothy, Marione and Rosianne Kolestein - a care provider and entrepreneur - the girls received the medical support that saved their lives.

Rosianne said: “We moved my sisters to the Netherlands as there was a slight chance to separate them at first.

“That’s what our parents wanted, they wanted a better life for them, obviously.

“It wasn’t a great time when living in Suriname. People started distancing themselves from our family, they thought it could have been some kind of voodoo.

“But yeah, the doctors did more examining and realised it wasn’t possible for separation. Their brains are conjoined and they share important blood vessels and veins.

“They weren’t expected to make it till 10 – now they’re 18 and you have to just think ‘wow’.

“How I see them, they’re just my little sisters and that’s how it’s always been. 

“They have their own personalities for sure. They’re very stubborn and you can tell they really want to make their own mark on the world.”

When growing up in the Netherlands, the girls had to lead a sheltered life due to the public’s reaction and having to be careful with their coordination when in uncontrolled environments.

Nelly said: “We had to be very careful growing up. It was annoying.

“You want to get out and do your own thing.

“And with our condition, you don’t have time to live for tomorrow.”

Rosianne continued: “We didn’t really want to take them outside, because people can be really mean.

“In one instance, we were walking outside and people were asking us questions like ‘why didn’t your parents terminate the pregnancy?’

“It was really bad. My mother would have people saying ‘you’re just keeping them alive for the money’.

“It’s really disrespectful.” 

But since the girls turned 16, Rosianne and family have tried to push them to become more active and take up vlogging online to connect with more people around the world and spread awareness about their condition.

Nelly said: “We have our own YouTube channel so people can get to know us.

“People can hopefully stop staring and find out we are sweet girls. Not just ‘the girls with a disability.’

“It’s fun and you can get to meet new people on there.

“It’s nice to know that people don’t just respond negatively.”

With their future and life expectancy still uncertain, the conjoined sisters are continuing to study at school, taking one day of their life at a time.

Along with Rosianne and their mother, the girls are very proud of what they have achieved in life up to now.

“I’m really proud of them. Really proud,” Rosianne said.

“They’ve accomplished so much and have grown as people.

“At the moment, they’re still in a phase where they have to discover who they are. We’ll all let them do that at their own pace.

“I think the future can be positive.”

Nelly added: “This is what we’re used to now.

“We wouldn’t want to get separated. Even if it was possible, we wouldn’t do it.

“As long as we’re healthy, that’s the most important thing.”