Conjoined twins hit milestone

CLEVELAND - The world's oldest conjoined twins have surpassed the life span of the original "Siamese Twins" and are marking the achievement with a public celebration.

Donnie and Ronnie Galyon on Saturday turned 62 years, 8 months and 8 days old, thereby outliving Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins who lived from May 11, 1811 to January 17, 1874. Chang and Eng were born in Siam, now Thailand.

A party for the Galyons was being planned for Saturday in their hometown near Dayton, Ohio.

The Galyons are joined at the sternum and share organs, which became a challenge four years ago when Ronnie became ill with a virus that affected Donnie's health as well.

The twins live with their younger brother Jim Galyon and his wife Mary.

Jim Galyon said his older brothers toured with their father, and at times seven other siblings, as "human oddities" until such shows fell out of fashion in the 1970s. The later travelled in Mexico and Latin America.

"They were on the road from (age) 4 to 40," Jim Galyon said. "They did their time."

They aim to break the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-lived conjoined twins when they turn 63 in October, their brother said.

According to the Guinness website, the longest-living twins, Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci of Italy, were born in 1877 and died at 63, he said.

"It has been lifelong goal to reach this age," Jim Galyon said.

Jim and Mary Galyon began caring for the twins around the clock four years ago, when the men were in poor health and the community helped with a $170,000 renovation to their home in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek.

"It was to the point where they couldn't do anything on their own anymore," said Jim Galyon.

The twins now spend most of their time in a special bed created by a team from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The slightly offset backrests face each other, and the twins relax with their legs splayed, rather than taking turns lying on top of each other on a queen-sized bed as they used to do.

Their health has improved in recent years, and Mary Galyon credits the bed as one factor.

Now they're regularly able to get up on their own, and they take outings such as fishing, baseball games and visiting restaurants.

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