Pictured: Kristen (left) and Sara (right) as toddlers
Twin sisters who were born with different medical conditions have been each other’s biggest supporters throughout their whole lives.
Sara and Kristen Tait, 21, were born on the Gold Coast in 1998.
Doctors immediately noticed that Sara had Spina Bifida – a condition where the spine does not form properly – and Kristen had a heart defect that meant it was three times the average size.
The diagnoses led medics to call them ‘semi-identical’ twins because they looked the same but had different conditions.
Over the next 21 years, the pair would love and care for each other – and their unbreakable bond helped them during tough times including when Sara was brutally bullied at school.
All the while, the twins never let their diseases stand in the way of their dreams.
Sara, who uses a wheelchair, has represented Australia in three different sports while Kristen has set up her own personal training business.
In an interview with Daily Mail Australia, the sisters discussed their incredible life story and shared their hopes for the future.
The Tait twins say they have been close their whole lives, and credit their family for being so supportive. They are now both working toward their respective goals
The girls revealed that their mother had a ‘pretty normal’ pregnancy right up until Sara, the first of the two girls, was born.
The 21-year-old told Daily Mail Australia doctors immediately recognised the telltale signs of Spina Bifida.
‘Sara was born with one leg over her head, both of her feet turned in at 90 degrees and a hole the size of a 20 cent piece in her lower back,’ the girls told Daily Mail Australia.
She was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, dislocated hips, and tallapies in both feet.
She also had hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid on the brain as a result of a cranial abnormality which is common in babies with Spina Bifida.
In the twins’ own words, Sara was a mess.
Sara and Kristen Tait’s mother had a ‘pretty normal’ pregnancy right up until Sara, the first of the two girls, was born. Pictured as newborns
WHAT IS SPINA BIFIDA?
Spina Bifida is a serious birth defect which translates to ‘split spine.’
The spinal chord and surrounding nerves do not develop properly within the womb, meaning the lower half of a person’s body will not function properly.
It usually leads to a range of motor and sensory problems.
Spina Bifida cannot be cured, but management plans are available for sufferers.
Moments later, Kristen came into the world.
The girls’ parents had been warned she would probably have the same condition considering identical twins normally have the same DNA.
But Kristen appeared perfectly healthy with no obvious abnormalities or health concerns when she was born.
Doctors were initially baffled. The girls were later told they were ‘semi-identical twins’ – whereby ‘we fed off the one placenta, but may have been derived from two separate eggs, or the one egg which split extremely early.’
While Sara was transferred to Westmead Children’s Hospital in Western Sydney for surgery to repair the hole in her back, Kristen had been sent to the high dependency unit because the doctors had picked up a suspected heart defect.
The Tait twins (pictured during their primary school years) were bullied at school. They say they still have ‘mental and emotional scars’
Pictured: Sara and Kristen as toddlers. The girls say their family shielded them as much as possible from the ‘general population’s’ lack of understanding about their conditions
This was confirmed through a series of tests and Kristen was required to undergo open heart surgery to repair her heart at 11 weeks old.
The girls defied the odds and lived relatively normal lives throughout their childhoods, participating in a variety of sports and creative classes.
But they said it was at times difficult to deal with classroom bullies at school.
The girls said they both ‘came out with some mental and emotional battle scars that we continue to deal with today’.
Sara said heading to school really ‘solidified’ the differences between her and her able-bodied classmates.
‘No-one else was in a chair,’ she said.
Sara Tait (pictured) has represented Australia in three different sports
‘The kids were horrible. I had people punching me in the back and then running away, people threatening to push me down the stairs.’
She said when she got older the bullying was less physical but people subtly excluded her.
The Tait twins said their parents did a ‘wonderful job at tried to shield us’ but that they quickly learned the ‘general population had a hard time accepting anyone who doesn’t fit the description of ”normal”.’
But the girls stuck together throughout the whole experience, and Kristen spent most of her time sticking up for her twin.
Over the next couple of years, Sara required several more surgeries while Kristen still struggles with symptoms of her heart condition.
Sara Tait most recently represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games and is training for the Paralympics
Now they’re both studying digital media degrees at university and Sara is pursuing her dream of competing in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
She has already represented Australia three times in wheelchair track and road racing, wheelchair basketball, and para-triathlon – most recently in the Commonwealth Games.
She trains twice a day across the various disciplines of triathlon as well as gym training.
Kristen would love to pursue a career in the arts, and is currently employed as a Simulated Patient at Griffith University, where she acts out scenes for medical students for exams.
She was also selected to play beach volleyball in the United States – an opportunity she credits to her sporty family.
Kristen (pictured) was also selected to play beach volleyball in the United States – an opportunity she credits to her sporty family
Kristen (pictured) has since retired from playing and is now pursuing a media career and a career in acting
‘We were given every opportunity to play sport and be active as kids growing up Nothing was off limits.’
‘Mum and dad always told us that there were some great life lessons to be learned through sport.
‘Self discipline, a strong work ethic, working in a team, learning to lead and be lead appropriately – these are all attributes to take into life itself,’ the girls said.
The Tait twins would love to continue sharing their story about building resilience through adversity.
‘Even though we don’t see ourselves as overly inspirational, we definitely do think that we’ve defied the odds in many ways,’ they said.
‘We’ve both had our different challenges and have achieved things that medical experts had said we never would.’
The bond of twins: Sisters are drawn to each other ‘like gravity’
Sara and Kristen acknowledge they’re not always the best of friends, but they say they share a bond like no other.
‘Despite our differences, we are drawn towards each other, it’s like a gravitational pull,’ Sara said.
‘Although we may not always get along, it’s like missing a part of yourself when the other one is too far away.
‘As kids growing up we tended to do everything together and share all of the same interests.
‘As we matured, we developed our own personalities and interests and found that we are actually very different people in many ways, although our bond remains impenetrable.
‘We are fiercely protective of one another and even share some weird, intuitive, twin sixth sense in extreme situations.
‘Last year, after the Commonwealth Games, Sara required brain surgery to fix a blocked shunt. During her recovery in hospital, she was given an antibiotic that she had an allergic reaction to, immediately making her feel very ill.
‘Kristen was in Coolangatta at the time completely unaware of this when she suddenly became extremely nauseous, unable to stand and felt the familiar, uneasy twin intuition telling her to check on Sara.
‘She called Mum who confirmed that what was happening with Sara. It seems the exact symptoms occurred at the exact same time.’
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