In the News
Switched at Birth
My nightmare in real life
-Julie Ryan Evans
A few months back, I wrote about the how hospital brought me the wrong baby after my daughter’s birth. Fortunately, I caught the mistake immediately, and my baby made it home with me. DeeAnn Angell and Kay Rene Reed weren’t quite so fortunate. They were switched at birth, and didn’t find out until 56 years later!
They went their whole lives–through marriage, childbirth, even grandchildren– with the wrong family.
Though rumors had circulated through the years about a possible mix-up, it was a call from an elderly neighbor that finally revealed the life-altering error.
“She said she had something she had to get off her chest,” said Kay Rene’s brother, Bobby Reed, in an interview with the East Oregonian newspaper.
The neighbor told him how DeeAnn Angell’s mother, Marjorie Angell, was convinced they had brought her the wrong baby after the baby girl was taken away for a bath. But nurses at the hospital, Pioneer Memorial Hospital in eastern Oregon, dismissed her concerns.
The neighbor told Bobby of her suspicions and showed him a picture of a girl who looked exactly like his sister. She was a member of the Angell family.
Blood tests confirmed what the pictures portrayed.
When she got the results Kay Rene says she cried. “I wanted to be a Reed–my life wasn’t my life.”
Both sets of parents have passed away, so they never knew that the children they were raising weren’t their own, but I wonder if they wondered through the years. Had they compared them to their other children and noted the differences, but loved them anyway?
The entire lives of these women and their families would have been drastically different if they hadn’t been switched. Would they have married the same men? Had different careers? Experienced different things? Almost certainly. And while reports are that both families were loving, what if one hadn’t been?
Strangely enough, both women settled in the same area and married men with the last name, “Shaffer,” though De Ann’s married name only contains one “f”.
So what kind of amends can a hospital make for such a huge mistake? Pioneer Memorial Hospital offered to pay for counseling for both women. Both women declined. (The hospital that gave me the wrong baby gave me a blanket.) And really, how do you make up for altering (or almost altering) someone’s entire life?
I’m sure many people in this situation would get all litigious, but it’s nice to see that these women don’t seem to have any intentions of doing so. Reports are that they have actually become friends and even celebrated a birthday together recently.
While there’s got to be a lot of anger and questions and what ifs, there’s no going back and changing it, which both women seem to have realized.
“Both say they wouldn’t have met their husbands, they wouldn’t have the children they have now, and a lot of that just wouldn’t have happened” said Dorothy Shaffer , who grew up as Kay Rene’s sister.
Once again we’re reminded of how lives can change in an instant.