Twins had strokes at 26. One of the 26-year-old twins had her stroke on the right side of her head. “Nine months later to the day, her twin sister, Kimberly Tucker, suffered a stroke in exactly the same way, except on the left side,” reported Yahoo! News on May 28, 2013.
The strokes that 26-year-old twins Kathryn and Kimberly Tucker experienced just nine months from each other and on opposite sides of their brain has their doctors puzzled.
Both twin girls suffered a stroke on opposite sides of the occipital lobe, which sends visual input from the brain to the retinas.
Dr. Joni Clark, a vascular neurologist at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix said about the twins’ strokes at an early age of 26 that, “honestly, it’s rare for us to actually evaluate two sisters who’ve had strokes within months of each other. If they had a family history, it would not be a surprise. It’s quite uncommon.”
The twin girls are fraternal twins and thus do not share the same DNA. They have no family history of stroke or any other genetic heritage that would have contributed to experiencing the same stroke within nine months.
In July of 2012, one of the 26-year-old twin girls, Kathryn Tucker, had just gone to bed in her apartment in Tempe, Ariz., when she felt a sharp pain on the right side of the back of her head. Then her vision went out and she went numb. Her brother rushed the twin girl to the hospital. Doctors initially thought that the 26-year-old twin girl had a migraine and sent her home without any medical intervention.
“I slept for three days straight,” said Kathryn. “Then, when I woke up, my vision was horrible. Everything was distorted and one-dimensional. I could barely get around.”
Because her symptoms did not improve but got worse, Kathryn returned to an urgent care facility and tests showed that she actually had a stroke.
In April of 2013, exactly nine months later to the day, Kathryn Tucker’s twin sister Kimberly suffered the same stroke.
“On the day of my stroke I did a 5K run,” said Kimberly Tucker. “I was feeling extra thirsty the whole time and went home to take a nap.”
When Kimberly woke up from her nap, she felt a sharp pain in the back of her head, but on the life side. Similar to her twin sister, Kimberly’s vision diminished and she was not able to think complete thoughts. Because of her twin sister’s stroke, Kimberly knew that she was having a stroke and called 911.
“I instantly knew I had a stroke because I was suffering from many of the same symptoms as my sister. The EMT’s told me that the chance of both me and my sister having a stroke this young was that of being struck by lightning twice. They thought I was suffering from dehydration or heat stroke.”
It was Kimberly’s twin sister Kathryn who told her to take the blood thinners that Kathryn had and it was a life-saving advice.
Both 26-year-old twins who had suffered a stroke just nine months apart received a thorough medical evaluation since stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and kills nearly 130,000 Americans each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of a stroke are:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.
- Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
“If you or someone you know shows any symptoms of a stroke, get to a hospital quickly to begin treatment. Medical personnel will try to stop an ischemic stroke while it is happening by quickly dissolving the blood clot or by stopping the bleeding. For hemorrhagic stroke, immediate surgery may be needed to prevent re-bleeding or other complications, which can lead to serious disability or death in 40% to 60% of cases.”
An ischemic stroke is when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
Suffering a stroke can be prevented by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, refraining from smoking, limiting alcohol use, being aware of one’s cholesterol level and blood pressure, and knowing about any medical conditions that might put one at risk for stroke.
Both the 26-year-old twins who had suffered a stroke smoked, were migraine sufferers, and had been taking birth control pills.
After the twins’ strokes, Kathryn Tucker’s medical examination showed that she had a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a small hole in the heart. Kimberly’s medical examination showed that she had arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat.
Today, both 26-year-old twins who suffered the same stroke just nine months apart to the day are doing fine after having received occupational therapy and speech therapy.
Being twins, Kimberly and Kathryn always felt that they were close. After their shared experience, Kimberly said, “I think we always have been close, but this definitely brought us closer. Honestly, she is the only person who understands because we are going through it together.”