Twin brothers, triple bypasses: Identical twins have near identical surgeries

MANITOWOC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Twin brothers from Manitowoc County are sharing a remarkable and rare story after having nearly identical surgeries within hours of each other.

Twins often say they have a psychic bond or can feel each other's pain. The Rutherford brothers are an example of that as they felt the same symptoms for the same health problem at the same time.

The lives of Peter and Paul Rutherford have been interesting from the start. Fifty-four years ago, Peter Rutherford was born. Three minutes later, Paul Rutherford surprised everyone.

"She didn't know there was another one in there," Peter said about his mom.

Their mother didn't know she was pregnant with identical twins.

"I think I was maybe three pounds-something and he was maybe almost six," Paul says.

Peter jokingly compares them to the unusual duo in the movie "Twins."

"I was like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and you were Danny DeVito," Peter laughs.

Paul:"Daily, weekly people think I'm him."
Peter: "People come up to me and start talking and it's like, I have no clue who you are."

They have the same sense of style and the same haircuts.

"I cut my hair yesterday and it was white Jesus," Peter says.

They also share a similar sense of humor.

"That's me, the good looking one. Peter, the ugly one," Paul jokes.

The brothers do everything together. Peter points out that he is always first.

Last June, he was first to head to the hospital when he was not feeling well. He was worried because heart disease runs in the family.

"They scheduled a stress test. I failed that," Peter says.

Doctors at Aurora BayCare determined Peter would need open heart surgery for three blocked arteries.

"A couple were over 70 or 80, and one was closer to 90, I think," Peter says.

Aurora BayCare cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Alexander Roitstein, started triple bypass surgery.

While Peter was in the operating room, Paul was taking his kids shopping for a Get Well present for their uncle.

"I remember walking around and my chest started hurting a little bit then, and I'm like, wow, this hurts," Paul says. "But I didn't say nothing to anybody."

By the next day, the pain was too much. Paul headed to the hospital

"Within an hour, maybe a little more, they told me, yes, you had a heart attack," Paul says. "Gave me some drugs and took an ambulance to the Green Bay hospital."

Paul ended up in a room down the hall from his brother, and provided a sense of deja vu for Dr. Roitstein. Paul needed triple bypass surgery.

The surgeon says it makes sense for heart disease to strike at the same time since the brothers are genetic mirrors of one another.

"They had very similar anatomy. They had almost identical operations," Dr. Roitstein says.

However, the doctor has never treated identical twins with nearly identical problems, just hours apart.

"It's definitely one of those one or two in a lifetime," Roitstein says.

The men have the same birth date, same initials and same diagnosis. The hospital had to be cautious not to confuse the men.

"It's kind of odd for me, because I just sort of thought about what a mom must be like," Roitstein says.

Paul tells Action 2 News, "There's been stories of other twins having it months or years apart, and they thought that was something. We both heard that and went, ha! We said hold our beer or something like that."

Peter and Paul say they've felt each other's pain before, but never like this.

"Maybe I was having sympathy pains," Paul says."Maybe if he didn't have it, I wouldn't have had it either!"

The ordeal has only strengthened their bond. The brothers now focus on healthy eating and enjoying quality time in the woods.

They give thanks that their family tree is rooted in identical happy endings.

"I'm just glad he's still here," Peter says.