Sisters Amanda and Sara Eldritch spent their lives side by side, all the way to the end. The 33-year-old twins from Colorado suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder – despite surgery to help them – so, on March 30, 2018, they came up with a solution of their own.
Sara and Amanda had their quirks from an early age. Even as small children, the girls strongly preferred that their shirts were always tucked in and that their socks were wrinkle-free. The twins habitually washed their hands, too.
As the girls got older, their condition only worsened. In their teens, the twins would scour themselves in the shower and use an entire bottle of shampoo in a single hair-washing session. Then, the siblings would worry so much about their inability to take a reasonably-timed shower that they would avoid washing for weeks at a time.
It seemed as though nothing was ever clean enough for Sara and Amanda. Three times a day, the girls would clean their bathroom – public restrooms were off limits – and they went through countless bottles of hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.
The girls, who refused to be barefoot even in their own home, appeared to reach a breaking point when they were 16. That was when the twins attempted to commit suicide, but they were unsuccessful. Afterward, it was determined that Sara and Amanda suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.
People of all ages can suffer from OCD, a mental health disorder that launches them into a series of obsessions and compulsions. The former are visions, thoughts or behaviors that make a person feel distraught and compulsions are the actions taken to quell those obsessions.
Once diagnosed, OCD behaves much like a chronic illness would; it’s something that has to be managed each and every day. Treatment includes medication, which can dampen or entirely do away with symptoms and psychotherapy can also be an effective tool.
Sara and Amanda received this type of care after their diagnosis. They tried for 15 years to control their OCD through treatments like counseling and medication but nothing helped. According to the Daily Mail, their mother once heard them say, “If this is what our lives are going to look like forever, there’s no reason to live.”
But that all changed when the girls’ medical team decided to try something different. Deep brain stimulation surgery suppresses the area of the brain that’s in overdrive – and causing the OCD – by implanting electrodes in the brain. It’s a treatment that’s sometimes used to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
In 2017, Sara and Amanda talked about how the surgery had changed their lives. According to the Daily Mail, Amanda said, “Looking back at who I used to be, it seems like a different person was in my body.”
Amanda went on to say, “I was hijacked for 20 years and now I’m starting to get control back.” She provided examples of how the twins’ lives had changed to Colorado’s 9News, saying, “We actually leave the house, we have friends, we go to concerts, we do things.”
But even with so much success, the procedure hadn’t entirely cured the twins. Both Sara and Amanda had some lingering fears as they still couldn’t use public restrooms in spite of the surgery.
Still, the sisters appeared on an episode of The Doctors in 2017, and lauded the treatment, as it had helped them to feel better. Their mom, Kathy Worland, felt the same way. In an interview for Littleton Adventist Hospital’s spring 2016 magazine, she said, “This surgery has changed their lives – and saved their lives.”
But all the hope they felt at that time would be dashed on March 30, 2018. On that day, the sisters had driven approximately 125 miles from their home in Broomfield, Colorado. They ended up in Cañon City.
It was there – by the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is an architectural tourist draw that stands 955 feet over the Arkansas River – that the authorities found Sara and Amanda. They had parked their car on the side of the road.
Inside the vehicle, the police discovered both of the girls’ bodies. Sara and Amanda had died from gunshot wounds, but neither had been murdered. Instead, the twins appeared to have fulfilled a suicide pact.
In response to the news, a GoFundMe site was created to support the twins’ mother, Kathy. The page’s description read, “[Sara and Amanda’s] progress after the surgery surpassed all expectations and they packed an entire lifetime into the last three years. But there is no cure for mental illness and they finally succumbed to this insidious disease.”
A friend of the sisters, named Morgan Little, seemed to corroborate this theory in People magazine. “[Sara and Amanda] didn’t have a lot of friends,” she said. “They were perfectly nice, but their issues were just overwhelming.”
Little went on to say, “[Sara and Amanda] really wanted to be part of a community, [and be] well-liked, well-adjusted women. But they were depressed a lot and they just couldn’t maintain friendships. It was sad, because no one disliked them. Everyone was rooting for them [but] the mental illness was just too powerful.”
However a statement, released by the hospital that had treated the twins prior to their deaths, suggested that Sara and Amanda’s story could be a beacon of hope for others with mental health issues. It read, “Sara and Amanda were courageous, inspiring women who shared their story, even when it was difficult to do so, in hopes that it might help others.”