ROCHESTER, Mich. (WXYZ) — When Coronavirus first hit last year, we saw whole families suffering from the deadly effects of this unknown killer.
One Sunday dinner in March of 2020 infected 7 members of a single New Jersey family killing four within a week.
Doctors know so much more now, yet one mystery remains tonight.
Two Michigan women, identical twins, are making national headlines. Both had their bodies ravaged by COVID-19 but their outcomes were drastically different and doctors went searching for the reason why.
Hair color may be the only way people tell Kelly and Kimberly Standard apart. These 36-year-old identical twins are inseparable and have been since they were babies. They live, play, and eat together. They only go their separate ways for work.
“I work two jobs so I have to be out,” said Kelly.
Kelly works in childcare and retail. Early on, there was no mask or social distancing required for her jobs.
Kimberly works for Quicken Loans, they sent their employees home to work last February.
By March COVID symptoms hit them both with a vengeance. Coughing and shortness of breath. Kelly who has high blood pressure and diabetes thought it was due to her asthma.
“I was tired, a little dizzy,” said Kelly.
Kimberly who had no pre-existing health conditions had the same symptoms.
“So we decided to just go to the hospital to get checked,” said Kimberly.
They both had a fever higher than 102 and their oxygen levels were so low.
Both were admitted. Tylenol for fever and Hydroxychloroquine, antibiotics, and IV fluids. Kelly with all of her pre-existing conditions got better in a week.
Kimberly rushed to intensive care and put on a ventilator. Then came word she had to be life-flighted from Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“Oh my God what's going on,” said Kelly when her sister’s symptoms got worse.
Kelly pleaded just to say goodbye.
“I rubbed her hand she felt very stiff like I thought I was going to lose her,” said Kelly. “It was very frightening.”
Kelly doesn't remember much but knows she came close to dying.
“I flatlined,” said Kimberly.
“Oh my God yes, she flatlined when she was in the air,” said Kelly.
Kimberly says she had to be resuscitated and upon landing rushed to ICU in a coma.
They had to give me anxiety pills cause we've never been this far apart and I was scared,” said Kelly.
“Did the doctors give you a sense of why COVID affected you two so differently?” asked Carolyn Clifford.
“They don't know,” said Kimberly.
Dr. Mishita Goel of Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital who helped treat the identical twins along with a health team wanted to research why they would have such drastically different reactions to COVID-19. Dr. Goel helped publish this case study.
“They studied their blood and aside from Kimberly having fewer white blood cells saw little difference,” said Dr. Goel.
“If anyone gets infection it's honestly up to fate like they can completely recover or you know they can have worse outcome requiring incubation,” added Dr. Goel.
Dr. Goel says their treatment was the same. They both had low-grade fevers and had the same chest x-ray.
“That's when I realized prevention is better than cure,” added Dr. Goel.
After a month in the hospital, Kimberly finally returned home unable to walk with weakened lungs, kidneys, and a lingering cough.
It’s now a year later.
What do you tell people about what you've gone through?” asked Clifford.
“I tell them this is real and that it needs to be taken seriously,” said Kimberly.
Today they exercise more, eat healthier, and have a message for all who care to listen.
“Be smart and do what you can to stay alive and keep the people around you alive,” said Kimberly.
These twins now vaccinated were featured on the cover of the New York Times and other national outlets like Newsy.
“I just think it's important to share our story, we want people to know how it feels to almost lose someone,” said Kimberly.
“If we do what we're supposed to do we can fight this and win,” said Kimberly.
Kelly and Kimberly both see their doctor every month and continue to share their lessons by posting on Facebook hoping people will learn from their emotional journey and get vaccinated and stay safe.