Shiloh Pepin: The Life and Death of the World’s Only Real Mermaid

In mythology, mermaids have existed for millennia. Sailors from all over the world have long reported sighting the enigmatic creatures in the water on their journeys.

As for modern mermaid tales, only one name comes to mind, that of Shiloh Pepin.

Pepin was one of only three people in the world known to have survived with sirenomelia, or “mermaid syndrome,” which caused her legs to be fused together from birth.

Typically, the condition is almost always fatal in newborns, however, Pepin defied the odds. At the age of two, she had her first kidney transplant, with more than 150 surgeries to follow — spending her entire life under doctors’ care.

“She was missing a whole series of organs including her uterus and her bladder, and her large intestine,” Dr. Matthew Hand, a kidney specialist at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center, told 20/20 in 2008. “She had no vaginal vault or rectum, and no way for urine to get out of her body. Most of these babies die because of poor renal tissue makeup in their body.”

Despite suffering from one of the most lethal conditions, the 10-year-old was one of the most cheerful, animated children.

The world’s only real mermaid died back in 2009 from pneumonia. The cause of her disease is a still a mystery.

Watch the video above for more on Shiloh Pepin’s story.