Siblings share a special connection, more so when they are twins. The bond between them is usually one of mutual comfort, joy, reassurance, solace and love. But this was taken away from one young boy in a cruel twist of fate.
Walker Myrick was meant to come into this world with his twin, Willis, on the night of March 6, 2007. But Willis had already passed in the womb.
It turned out the twins’ mother, Brooke Myrick of Florence, Alabama, had suffered twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a potentially fatal — for both fetuses — and rare condition.
In TTTS, the twin fetuses share one placenta and network of blood vessels, thus receiving an unequal amount of essential nutrients, resulting in one child — or both — not getting the adequate nutrients they need to survive. The condition affects roughly 15% of identical twins that share a placenta or 4,500 TTTS cases per year in the U.S.
“I had never heard of it, and I actually didn’t even know we should get tested,” the mother of the twins, Brooke said. “Every time we went in, everything was fine, so I was in this mindset that I’m going to have two healthy babies.”
“I was 24 weeks when we found out but they said that it had been at least a week, so we really don’t know when Willis passed away,” she added.
After the tragic loss, Walker would carry on in life and, despite never having met his twin, has never forgotten about his brother.
“It’s just one of those things,” Brooke told Today. “I truly believe he’ll always have a connection with his brother.”
Walker would constantly ask his mother to visit Willis’s grave, and it was during one of these visits that Brooke captured a heartwrenching, but beautiful image.
Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video
Brooke told PEOPLE that after Walker’s first day of kindergarten in 2012, he asked if they could visit Willis’s grave. When they arrived, Walker rushed out of the car before his mom could even get her younger daughter, who was still a baby at the time, ready. By the time she had reached him, she saw him sitting with his back leaning against his brother’s gravestone. Moved by the image, she took a picture. She explained:
“I parked and he ran up ahead as I was unstrapping his baby brother from his car seat. All I had with me was my iPhone. I wasn’t anticipating taking a photograph. But when I walked up and saw him like that, it was just one of those moments where you think: ‘This is really special.’”
Walker told his mom that he had wanted a quiet moment alone with his brother, and when he was finished, Brooke said “he was all smiles.”
“He just wanted to sit there and, I think, feel that connection,” she continued. “He told us that he just wanted to tell his brother about school.”
While Brooke said she “struggled for several years” after the loss of Willis, she and her husband’s decision to be open with Walker and their three other children about Willis helped.
“Even as an infant I would always talk to him about Willis and he would smile,” Brooke said, adding, “At 1 or 2 years old, he would run up to the grave. We would say, ‘That’s your brother. That’s where your twin brother is.’ Because I always wanted him to know where he was going. I always wanted him to know that was an open area of his life and not to grow up ever thinking, ‘I can’t talk about my brother.’”
Both mother and son are now determined to spread the word on TTTS and hold the “Walker and Willis Birthday Walk to Fight TTTS” every year to raise money for the TTTS Foundation.
“We were not screened for it, nor did our doctor refer us to a specialist or even know that my boys were identical and sharing a placenta,” Brooke told The Mirror. “We fight for awareness because of the lack of knowledge that our doctor possessed about this disease.”
On whose idea it was in the first place, Brooke said it was all Walker.
“We had gone to a fundraising walk and on the way home he asked, ‘Could we do a walk?’ And I said, ‘Well, maybe when you’re older. We’re so busy.’ I kind of brushed him off. Then he said, ‘I want to do it for my birthday,’ so, of course, I couldn’t say no. He was like, ‘I want to raise some money for my brother,’” Brooke said.
“At a certain stage in pregnancy, they can detect TTTS through ultrasound. So one of the main things is for women to understand that if they are pregnant with twins they need weekly ultrasounds because it happens so fast.”
Meanwhile, Walker continued to visit his brother, telling his mother he sometimes also dreamed about him. “Walker has a drive to make sure Willis is never forgotten. Willis truly lives through Walker — and I think he watches over him,” Brooke said.
“He speaks of his brother all the time and, when he was a toddler, he would run to the grave and lean down and hug it.”
She added: “I think their connection is strong, even in death. Identical twins are known to carry a very strong connection and I believe it’s still there with my boys.”
How sweet is Walker’s love for his twin brother? Do you have a strong connection like this with any of your siblings? Let us know and pass this on to brothers, sisters, family and friends.
Please scroll below for more stories