Switched At Birth: 15 Years After Hospital Blunder, Teen Speaks About Ordeal, Never Meeting Biological Parents
SWITCHED AT BIRTH: 15 years after hospital blunder sent her home with wrong parents teen speaks out on ordeal that cost her relationship with her now dead biological parents
via NY Daily News:
It was a shocking discovery that forever linked two families in turmoil — the moment a Virginia mother found out her 3-year-old daughter had been switched at birth. But a years-long custody battle would never end with the little girl, or the child with whom she was swapped, reuniting with their biological families. And now, 15 years later, Callie Johnson speaks publically for the first time about growing up with the woman she always knew as Mom.
“She’s my best friend,” 18-year-old told WTVR-TV of her mother, Paula Johnson. “She always has been. And I can honestly say that.”
The bizarre ordeal which became one of the most publicized stories about two children switched at birth — began in June 1995, when Paula Johnson gave birth to a baby girl at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. But three years later, when the mother’s boyfriend asked for a paternity test to determine if Callie was really his, Paula’s life was turned upside down the child belonged to neither parent. She alerted the hospital, where staff soon realized that Callie actually belonged to Kevin Chittum and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Whitney Rogers, who gave birth to a little girl a day after Paula became a mother.
But in a tragic twist, the young couple died in a horrific car crash hours before officials planned to tell them their young daughter, Rebecca, actually belonged to Paula Johnson.
“The big question everyone always asks me is, ‘Would you prefer your parents still be alive or passed?’” she told the news station this week. “I don’t know what I’m missing. So, in a sense, I do feel more sorry for Rebecca, because she doesn’t know her biological mom.”
Paula tried to claim her biological child, suing Rebecca’s grandparents who won custody of the girl after the parents died. A three-year legal battle ensued and ended with a judge ruling that the children would remain with the families that raised them.
The families tried to work out a visitation schedule, but they failed to get along and the two girls lost enthusiasm to see relatives they didn’t know.
“I’ve always taught (Callie) from day one that they are her parents,” Paula told the news station. “She was born in Whitney’s belly and she was born in my heart.”
Paula later sued the hospital for $31 million, but settled for $1.25 million. The local CBS affiliate asked the University of Virginia Medical Center for comment, but officials declined to speak about the incident.
But one professional told the news station that the incident which grabbed national headlines for years sparked reform in maternity wards.
“It was very upsetting. It put everyone on guard ever since,” Judy Matthews, director of Women’s and Children’s Service at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, said.
Matthews said hospitals across the country modernized safeguards to prevent other children from being swapped at birth.
“Technology plays a role, but you also want to be very sure that all of your other procedures are in place,” she said. “You can’t rely on one system to protect your babies.”
Paula said she is still mad about the mix-up.
“I’m angry because I don’t have a relationship with my biological child,” she said. “I’m angry at the hospital, because the only thing I ever asked was them to apologize. I’m angry that Kevin and Whitney aren’t here to see what a beautiful child (Callie) is and how much she’s grown.”
Callie said she is planning to one day write a book about her life.
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