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10 Sets Of People Who Were Switched At Birth

Shawn W. Larson

It’s a nightmare scenario: You give birth to a healthy baby at the hospital, give it a name, take it home to nurture and care for it, and introduce it to the world . . . only to find out later that you were sent home with the wrong child. By the time the mistake is realized, you can’t fathom being expected to hand over a child you already consider your own. Yet somewhere out there is another family caught in the same quagmire. They too, left the hospital with the wrong bundle—your biological child.

While most hospitals use a series of anti-switch techniques to prevent these sort of catastrophes from happening, they still pop up as freak occurrences from time to time. And no method, it turns out, whether fingerprinting or medical ID tagging, is foolproof against that old predictable culprit of monumental disasters: human error.

10 Russian Name Tag Roulette

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Two 12-year-old Russian girls, whose mothers gave birth to them in the same maternity ward, were recently discovered to have been switched at birth, thanks to a father’s refusal to pay child support. Yuliya Belyaeva’s ex-husband said he wouldn’t be making any support payments until a DNA test was performed, insisting that his daughter, Irina, looked nothing like him. When a court-ordered paternity test was administered, the results were a shocker: Not only was he not the father, but Yuliya Belyaeva was not the child’s mother. That’s when Yuliya remembered that another woman had given birth alongside her at the same ward, and she set out to track her down.

With the help of the local police, Yuliya found the woman, and learned that she and her biological daughter, Anya, had been living just a few miles away from her the entire time. And while the 12-year-old girls were both happy to have found each other, neither of them have any plans of leaving the family they’ve already grown up with.

In a colossal mistake, the hospital had apparently given the newborn girls the wrong name tags, causing them to be taken home by the wrong mother. Both families sued the hospital for damages, and were awarded $100,000 each.

9 Winner Takes All

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You have to wonder about the competence of a hospital staff that, having only two women give birth on a particular day, still manages to get it wrong. And that’s exactly what happened to Sandy Dawkins and Megs Parker of South Africa, when they were both sent home with the wrong baby. It wasn’t until each of the infants were 18 months old, following a paternity test, that the mistake was caught. And by then both mothers had already been breastfeeding, and decided to keep the child they came home with—Robyn with Sandy, and Gavin with Megs.

Following the discovery, the two boys began spending time together like brothers, until they turned 15, when Megs encouraged Robyn to move in with her and Gavin. Sandy was left heartbroken and without a son, and has had no contact with either of the boys, who are now both 23. Megs, on the other hand, was recorded saying, “I got the best of both worlds.”

8 Bed, Bath, And Be Gone

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Imagine living a seemingly normal life for half of a century: You go through high school, land a job, get married and have kids, and even welcome a few grandchildren into the fold. You go through all of this before finding out one day in your mid-50s, that your family isn’t quite who you believed them to be. That’s how the shock of having been switched at birth played out for Kay Qualls and Dee Ann Angell Shafer, both 56, of Oregon.

A woman who had apparently known both families called Qualls’s brother one day with a startling claim: His sister had been switched at birth. She said it happened back in 1953, when his mother, Marjorie Qualls, insisted she’d been handed back the wrong baby, after the two newborns were taken out to be bathed by nurses at Pioneer Memorial Hospital. Despite her insistence to hospital staff, Marjorie’s concerns were dismissed, and she ended up taking home another woman’s child.

A DNA test later confirmed the woman’s story, and Kay Qualls said she cried after the results. Since then, the two women have become good friends, and consider each other “swisters.”

7 Bring That Baby Back!

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Just hours after bringing her baby boy home, Mary Jo Bathons of Marion, Illinois got a phone call from the hospital, informing her that she had been sent home with the wrong baby—a baby that belonged to 17-year-old Kassie Hopkins, another woman who had also given birth at the Heartland Regional Medical Center. The switch happened when both Riley and Hunter were taken at the same time for circumcisions and were then handed back to opposite mothers. The women are suing for $50,000 in damages, and the hospital released a statement expressing its regret over the mix-up.

I think John Womack, the lawyer representing both women, said it best: “If you aren’t careful with babies, then what are you careful with?”

6 Code Confusion

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Kevin and Susan Dunagan of Plano, Texas discovered their newborn son had been switched with another baby, when a hospital staffer came into their room after his birth to perform a routine hearing test. Punching in the code from his bracelet, the technician asked the Dunagans if their child had a different last name than theirs . . . he did not. And that’s when it was realized that, following a pair of circumcisions, the two boys had been given back to the wrong mothers.

The swap happened as a result of the newborns having similar codes on their bracelets. By then, Susan had already spent around three hours breastfeeding the wrong baby, and the family whose child it was, requested she be tested for communicable diseases. Hospital administrators apologized for the mistake, and even offered to cover the entire hospital bill the Dunagans had incurred during their stay.

5 Schoolmates

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Two 10-year-old schoolmates, Jeerawuth Boonyoo (boy) and Orawan Changthong (girl), found out in 2006 that they were switched at birth, after a subsequent DNA test confirmed suspicions. Their mothers, who gave birth in May 1995, apparently both fainted after delivery, causing the confusion that likely resulted in the mix-up. Both families agreed to let the Thai children decide whether to stay with their current families, or move in with their biological parents.

Following the initial break of the story, no update has been reported on which decision the children made.

4 Switched Adoption

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In October 1983, Edith Moore and her husband arrived at the Griffin-Spalding Hospital outside of Atlanta to pick up a child they planned to adopt. When they did, they were given the wrong baby, the child of Judie Pope, who had given birth at the same time. Judie ended up being sent home with the baby placed for adoption, instead of her own biological child. The Popes were upset when they learned of the switch, and insisted they be given back their own child to correct the mistake.

But in a 1991 ruling, judge Frank M. Eldridge of the Fulton County Superior Court sided with the Moores, stating, “For over eight years, the Moores have loved, nurtured and reared the boy as their son. They have given freely of their time, emotions, and material possessions to support this boy as their son. To the boy and to the Moores there exists a bonding and familial relationship that no court can undo.”

3 Argentinian Men

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Two Argentinian men, both aged 34, found out recently they had been switched at birth, when one of them tried to donate blood to a sister. Gustavo Germain and Javier Delmasso had lived no more than five blocks apart from one another for years, before discovering the switch as adults. When Javier tried to donate blood to a sister in need, he was shocked to find out that his blood type didn’t match what was listed on his birth certificate. Strangely, he also had a chance encounter with his biological brother and father, realizing he looked an awful lot like them.

It happened when Marta Delmasso, the biological mother of Gustavo, said that after spending the night in a ward for newborns in 1974, her child wasn’t brought back wearing the clothes she bought him. The nurse had swapped the babies’ clothes by mistake—a nurse who, so far, no one has been able to locate for explanation.

2 Twins Switched At Birth

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A Poland court recently awarded over $500,000 to the families of three women, who were all involved in a switched-at-birth mistake.

When two-week-old twins Kasia and Nina were taken to a Warsaw hospital in 1984 with pneumonia, Nina was accidentally swapped with another child at the hospital named Adita. When the two girls sent home together began to show very different appearances, doctors told the family that they were probably not identical twins, as once believed, but more likely just fraternal twins. Seventeen years later, Kasia was told by a friend that she looked exactly like another girl who lived just across town. When they met, they had similar birthmarks, and their interests were even the same.

DNA later confirmed the switch, and the results have reportedly taken a heavy toll on the mother of the twins.

1 All In The Family

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And finally, what good would a list of unfortunate mishaps like these be without at least one happy ending?

Recently, a pair of Brazilian men, both 25, learned that they had been switched at birth by mistake. But it’s not what happened to Dimas Aliprandi and Elton Plaster that makes their story unique, it’s how they transformed the potentially upsetting news into a positive, using it as an opportunity to grow their families into something greater.

When Dimas had suspicions that he was an illegitimate child, he convinced his family to join him in a DNA test by offering to pay for it. His parents accepted, and when the results came back, his suspicions turned out to be right. His parents offered to help him find his biological family, and when they were located, the family that raised Dimas accepted an offer from the Plasters to move onto their farm, where they built a house. They now work side by side on the same piece of land, harvesting vegetables and living together as one big family. And no one harbors any hard feelings over the unfortunate mishap.

“This is the way it should be,” Elton’s father said. “We are all together, and I now have two sons living and working here.” Dimas added, “It’s not everyone who can say he has two fathers and mothers living together with him.”

Shawn Larson is a former music producer, who now spends his time writing, mastering photography, and raising a family.