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Twins' Strokes at 26 Have Doctors Looking at Shared Risk Behaviors

By Alexandra Ward   |   Wednesday, 29 May 2013 12:55 PM

Fraternal twins Kathryn and Kimberly Tucker don't have the same DNA or a family history of strokes so doctors were stumped when the 26-year-olds each suffered one just nine months apart.

Kathryn Tucker was at her Tempe, Ariz., apartment in July 2012 when she felt a sharp pain on the back of her head, lost vision on her right side, and went numb. Her brother took her to the hospital where doctors dismissed her symptoms as a migraine and sent her home.

"I was absolutely terrified. I slept for three days straight," she told "Good Morning America." "Then, when I woke up, my vision was horrible. Everything was distorted and one-dimensional. I could barely get around."

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She was forced to see a specialist at an urgent care facility where tests confirmed she had, indeed, suffered a stroke.

Nine months later to the day, Kimberly Tucker had the exact same symptoms, but on her left side.

"On the day of my stroke I did a 5K run," she told "GMA." "I was feeling extra thirsty the whole time and went home to take a nap. My vision closed in almost completely, I wasn't making a lot of sense, and was not able to form complete thoughts. But I knew I was having a stroke.

"I instantly knew… 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."

Doctors have no explanation for the Tuckers. The twins are not identical and have no family history of strokes, so the cause isn’t genetic. The only possibility is that they both share some of the same risk behaviors, like smoking and taking birth control pills.

It was later revealed that Kimberly Tucker had arrhythmia or irregular heart beat, and her sister Kathryn had a PFO, or a patent foramen ovale, a small hole in the heart. Each of those things may have contributed to each girl's stroke.

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Today, the Tucker twins are doing well after occupational and speech therapy though they still have some visual problems and are not allowed to drive.

"We are super close," Kimberly Tucker said of her sister. "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."

Related stories:

School's 23 Sets of Twins in One Grade Could Break Guinness World Record

Twins Born 87 Days Apart in Ireland Set Guinness Record

Stroke and Heart Attack Symptoms You Never Saw Coming

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