Westmead Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Headaches lead to discovery of tumour - in twin brother

May 21, 2012

IDENTICAL twin brothers Craig and Brenton Gurney, 38, were inseparable as children, shared a bedroom until they were 22, and have played in the same soccer team since they were five. They even ended up marrying women named Nicole.

"We've always been really, really close," Brenton says.

If extrasensory perception exists between twins it was Craig who was the intuitive one. From 2700 kilometres away he once divined when his brother had a life-threatening mystery rash, and when he had dislocated a shoulder.

So the story of the Gurney twins is even more remarkable because it was Brenton who started getting the persistent headaches. It was Brenton who persuaded hale and hearty Craig to join a study of twins (looking into mental health and resilience) because it included an MRI scan.

The MRI test picked up no abnormalities in Brenton's brain. But Craig, who never suffers headaches, got the shock news: a massive and rare tumour in the base of his skull.

"I was hoping they had mixed up the MRI results and got the wrong twin," Brenton says.

When Craig underwent a complex 10 1/2 hour operation to remove a 4.2-centimetre tumour, his wife and family in the waiting room cast meaningful looks at Brenton as if he were a barometer on his brother's progress.

"It was unspoken but everyone was looking at me," says Brenton, who had no sixth sense about the events transpiring on the operating table.

A year since the operation at Westmead Private Hospital, and following two months of intensive radiation therapy, Craig says: "Ultimately Brenton saved my life."

The twins - Brenton from West Pennant Hills, Craig from nearby Mount Colah - have participated in twin studies since their mother registered them with the Australian Twin Registry soon after birth.

Craig believes it is almost a duty for twins, whatever their age, to register and take part in studies because of what scientists can learn from twins about the nature / nurture debate - the extent to which genes or environment influence physical and mental health.

"I thought I was participating in a research study as a way of helping others but as it turned out it helped save my life," Craig says.

The brothers said in separate interviews, but using almost identical words, that the ordeal had brought them closer, "if that was possible".

The director of the Australian Twin Registry, Professor John Hopper, said work with twins benefited all Australians. and the registry was always looking for more participants.

Justine Gatt, of the Brain Dynamics Centre at the University of Sydney, the coordinator of the twin study on resilience, said the team had been shocked to discover Craig's tumour. "It's not something that happens often." As for a telepathic connection between twins, Dr Gatt says, "There's so much we don't know."

For any researcher on resilience, Craig is a case study in positive thinking. Five weeks after neurosurgery, he was playing competitive soccer. However, for the first time, it was not in his brother's team. He was a little out of condition.

By Adele Horin

With permission to use article from Sydney Morning Herald.

Headaches lead to discovery of tumour - in twin brother Headaches lead to discovery of tumour - in twin brother Headaches lead to discovery of tumour - in twin brother