SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A pair of identical twins with identical heart conditions recently underwent a successful surgery. The 22-year-olds from La Mesa are believed to be the first twins in the U.S. to have had the procedure.
Like many identical twins, Brielle and Tawna Lichtenthaler grew up doing everything together and now, their bond is stronger than it's ever been.
On Monday, the 22-year-olds underwent surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital to fix a heart defect commonly known as ASD.
“It stands for atrial septal defect. It basically means you have a hole between your right atrium and your left atrium," said Tawna.
For years, both twins say they have been complaining about shortness of breath and chest discomfort, which prevented them from participating in certain activates growing up.
"We felt very limited and almost embarrassed, like trying to hike Cowles Mountain and you can't get halfway up without stopping to catch your breath," said Tawna.
Doctors initially attributed those symptoms to sport induced asthma. That all changed last November when Tawna applied for a dispatch job with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
"Getting a physical is the final step. The doctor was listening to my heart and said he heard a murmur," said Tawna.
Brielle was urged to get a check as well and sure enough, the results were the same.
"In a way, it was a little more comforting for me, just the fact that we were going through this together. We both have it. So that was easier to take," said Brielle.
The girls' surgery took less than two hours a piece. Due to medical advancements, they didn't have to undergo an open heart procedure. Instead, an umbrella like device was inserted through their groin through a vein and positioned into the holes of their hearts.
"What’s particularly interesting about this case is that it's the first time in the United States that adult identical twins with the same defect have had this surgery at the same time," said Jennifer Crawford, a spokeswoman for Sharp Memorial.
Moving forward, the twins say they plan on having an active lifestyle.
"We're actually planning a goal by the end of the year. We were hoping to do a 5K together so we're going to keep pushing ourselves," said Tawna.
Beyond that, they can now look forward to creating even more memories together for years to come.
"Now I'm very excited to see what's going to happen in the future," said Tawna.
The twins older brother has an appointment next week to see if he has the same condition. Their family members intend to get checked out as well.