Twin brothers Donald and Ronald Crigler have both been through the process of receiving life-saving heart transplants. The 48-year-old twins from St. Louis, Missouri were both diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, Donald in 2011 and Ronald in 2014.
Donald Crigler first received his heart transplant in 2017, while his brother Ronald Crigler received his six months ago in September 2021.
The twins underwent their procedures at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
“For two twins to have exactly the same issue is very, very unusual,” Dr. Kao said. “I’ve been doing transplants since 1982,” he continued. “This is the first time I’ve had identical twins both needing transplants and both being transplanted. So this is really quite a rare occurrence.”
He added, “Everyone has a unique story, but this is the most unique I’ve seen.”
Donald and Ronald Crigler were both healthy and active growing up and did almost everything together, Donald Crigler told Fox News Digital. As adults, the twins have remained close.
Donald told Fox News Digital that one night in July 2011, after a typical day with his family he started to experience shortness of breath. He thought that he would be able to sleep it off, but he was still struggling to breathe that next morning and his wife to him to the emergency room.
Doctors told him that his heart was working only at 20% capacity, and the rest of his body was retaining so much fluid that fluid was now going into his lungs as well. Later that day Donald was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, also known as an enlarged heart.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Donald Crigler told Fox News Digital. “I have always been extremely healthy .. I wasn’t sick prior to that. It was just unbelievable. I never thought it could happen to me.”
Throughout the year Donald tried defibrillators and medications that did not work. His heart function decreased to 10% in 2014, and he was given a pacemaker.
The year before that, his brother Ronald started to have his health issues in 2013. After doing an overnight shift at the post office, he grabbed something “pretty unhealthy” to eat and went home. The next morning Ronald felt unwell and decided to go to the doctor, something he “rarely did”, he told Fox News Digital.
He was first diagnosed with irritable bowels syndrome IBS and was sent home.
Time went on and Ronald’s body began to swell and retain fluid.
“The fluid got so bad I told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room,” Ronald said. “I’d been putting it off.”
At the emergency room, doctors told him that he also had dilated cardiomyopathy, just like his twin brother.
Just like his brother, he tried different medications but his heart function continued to decrease.
After going through a rigorous evaluation, Donald Crigler was placed on the heart transplant list in 2016 and received a heart transplant in 2017. While recovering from surgery, he encouraged his twin brother to get evaluated for a heart transplant too.
Ronald continued to put it off with hopes that the medication and defibrillators would help. As his health continued to deteriorate, he finally decided to get evaluated for the transplant list. “I was scared,” Ronald said. “I waited until the very end.”
In August 2021. Ronald was put on the transplant list and less than a month later, he received a heart transplant too.
“I feel incredible and I’m ready to do all the things that I couldn’t do last year,” Ronald said. “Especially playing with my little grandson. He’s my little buddy – my little 7-year-old grandson.”
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