Chris van Tulleken watches doctors STOP his twin brother Xand's heart

Emotional moment TV doctor Chris van Tulleken watches medics STOP his identical twin brother Xand’s heart and shock it back to a regular rhythm after he suffered palpitations caused by Covid-19

  • Twin doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken filmed BBC’s Surviving the Virus
  • Xand was struck down with Covid-19 in March while Chris was on the frontline
  • Weeks later Xand suffered heart palpitations and doctors stopped his heart
  • Documentary showed emotional moment as Chris looked on at his brother 
  • Viewers were touched by the ‘moving documentary’ showing reality of Covid-19 

TV doctor Chris van Tulleken broke down in tears as he watched doctors stop his identical twin brother Xand’s heart in an emotional BBC documentary that aired last night. 

Cameras followed as the brothers, 41, returned to frontline services during the pandemic, with Xand volunteering to work at a care home ravaged by coronavirus and Chris on the ward for the first time in a decade at University College Hospital.

But before they started filming Surviving the Virus: My Brother And Me in late March, Xand fell ill: it was classic coronavirus, a fever, a hacking cough and a temporary loss of smell. 

He isolated at home for two weeks but continued to experience strange symptoms, including breathlessness and heart palpitations. Three weeks later, things became serious. The palpitations worsened, leaving him feeling sick, exhausted and scared. 

In the early hours of April 21, Xand travelled to University College Hospital, London, where Chris was working on a Covid-19 ward. Cameras rolled as the brothers were told that the only way to return Xand’s heart – which was beating at early three times the normal resting heart rate for a man of his age – to its normal rhythm was by shocking it with a powerful electric current. 

TV doctor Chris van Tulleken broke down in tears as he watched doctors stop his identical twin brother Xand’s heart in an emotional BBC documentary that aired last night, pictured

Viewers watched as Chris looked on, helpless, as his twin brother was put to sleep before his heart was stopped. They spoke of how emotional the moment was on Twitter (pictured)

It is thought to work by ‘rebooting’ the heart, so it stops, then starts beating again, hopefully with a healthy rhythm.

Viewers watched as Chris looked on, helpless, as his twin brother was put to sleep before his heart was stopped. ‘There is no one I am closer to,’ Chris said, explaining his bond with his twin. 

The concern on his face was clear to see and he reached a hand to touch his brother’s ankle in a small gesture of comfort, while his eyes remained glued to the heart monitor that showed it had been successfully stopped. 

After a few tense moments, the heart was given the shock and started beating again. 

Viewers watched as Chris looked on, helpless, as his twin brother was put to sleep (pictured) before his heart was stopped. ‘There is no one I am closer to,’ Chris said, explaining their bond

The concern on his face was clear to see as he watched his brother be put to sleep in hospital

In a small gesture of comfort, Chris reached down to squeeze Xand’s ankle while he was asleep

After a few tense moments, the heart was given the shock and started beating again, pictured

Chris couldn’t hold back his emotions and teared up, his eyes blinking furiously above his mask.  

One viewer touched by the scene tweeted: ‘So incredible of @DoctorChrisVT and @xandvt to share their story. Terrifying to watch Chris watch his twin flatline and wait for his heart to restart #SurvivingTheVirus.’

Another wrote: ‘@xandvt just watching the very powerful #survivingthevirus & very emotional watching you having your heart restarted.’ 

After a few days at home, Xand was able to continue filming – cameras followed him as he helped out in an old people’s home. But there seems to have been lasting damage.

Cameras followed as the brothers, 41, returned to frontline services during the pandemic, with Xand (left) volunteering to work at a care home ravaged by coronavirus and Chris (right) on the ward for the first time in a decade at University College Hospital 

Writing in the Mail On Sunday, Chris revealed that since the cameras stopped rolling in early May, Xand has had another episode of extreme heart palpitations, landing him in hospital.The doctors performed the same shock treatment to resolve the problem, and he was discharged that same day.

But it didn’t solve the problem entirely. Subsequent tests have led to a worrying diagnosis – the common heart condition atrial fibrillation, which usually affects people over 60. He’s currently taking medication to stablilise the heartbeat, but at some point in the future, he may need heart surgery to destroy the damaged tissue. 

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