This is the type of story that when you start to hear about it, it’s rather hard to fathom just how it’s going to end. After a pregnant mother of two – a Washington lady named Lydia Fairchild – applied for extra financial help from state fundings, she was told to take part in a protocol DNA test. A simple process, right? It’s something that happens regularly and rarely leads to anything of interest. Not this time, however.
Well, something was about to happen that turned Lydia’s world entirely on its head, and it was to make her question her own very existence. Lydia’s motherhood to her two babies was to become a national investigation, delving into the questioning of her life-long public identity. This is a very, very peculiar story – who was Lydia? Why had the government intervened? Was she really the mother of her children?
A mother of two
Lydia Fairchild, a young mother of two, was at a hard crossroads in her life. She was pregnant with her third child and was already a hard-working and loving mother to two other children. For the last few years, she had been in a relationship with a man named Jamie Townsend.
Although they were on good terms, they decided that separation as a couple was the best decision for both themselves and their children. In order to make their children’s lives as happy as possible, the two were amicable and decided to go their separate ways with the children’s best interests at heart.
A single mother
It was a tough decision for Lydia, but she knew it was the right one. As the two settled into their new lives as separated parents, the next step for the single mother was applying for government finance fundings to help her support her two children – especially with a third baby on the way. As part of this application, both Lydia and Jamie were to provide a DNA test.
This is something that is a simple formality for any application. As the results came in, things started not to go quite to plan. Jamie’s DNA test was confirmed positive, however, Lydia was required to attend a meeting at the Washington State Prosecutor Offices. She was told the interview was in discussion of her DNA test results – Lydia was baffled – what would there be to discuss?
An unmatched DNA
Much to Lydia’s confusion, she was told by the state that her DNA test had come back negative. How on earth could that happen Lydia thought to herself. The results simply must be incorrect. They began probing her with unnecessary questions, and Lydia began to feel slightly uneasy – did they not believe that she was the mother to her own children?
As Lydia explained her bafflement at why the test had come back negative, the agency officials began interrogating her more and more – Lydia was heartbroken, frightened and bewildered beyond words. Why were they not believing her? It all started to dawn on Lydia that they suspected her as a criminal fraud attempting to cheat the system and lie about her motherhood.
Months of speculation
The next few months were difficult for Lydia. The fact that the test proved she was not the biological mother to her children was something she couldn’t comprehend. How could that be? As Lydia started to question the reliability of the DNA test, her theories were immediately shut down – a DNA test never lies they said – but women can certainly lie – and that’s exactly what people thought was happening.
Lydia felt she wasn’t in control – the government was accusing her of things that just weren’t true. Over months of speculation and investigations, paranoia and helplessness took over her whole life. She tried everything she could to prove her innocence, including undertaking more and more tests – all came back against her. It seemed the odds just simply weren’t in her favor.
One last piece of evidence
Lydia was not going to give up – she was innocent – she WAS the biological mother of her children, and she was going to do everything in her power to prove this. As she battled through, one last glimmer of hope remained – there was a Boston woman who had experienced something similar to Lydia – her DNA tests too had come back as a negative link to her own children. After hearing about Lydia’s story, the Boston woman reached out.
She suggested she undertake one last test – a cervical screening. After a long anxious wait for the results, they did prove she was biologically linked to her children – Lydia now finally had the evidence to prove she was not lying. However, the results also yielded another predicament in Lydia’s life. She was now diagnosed with a very rare genetic disorder.
A rare condition
The genetic disorder Lydia was diagnosed with is called Chimerism. The condition is mostly unheard of in humans – with less than 40 documented diagnoses across the world. Chimerism is extremely rare and is a condition meaning you are provided with multiple genomes for different genetic material in your body.
Hence why Lydia’s DNA was not detecting her as the same genome as her children. This meant her test had been lying to us all along. But how exactly does Chimerism come about?
Let’s go back to the start
To truly understand what Chimerism is, let’s go back to the start of Lydia’s predicament, when she was being fought against when testifying her case. The DNA test proving Lydia was lying, was now officially null and void.
Lydia sighed a huge sigh of relief, and a massive weight of her back had now been lifted. However, it had gone on for so long. Lydia was troubled, and her experiences with the false DNA test was extraordinarily traumatic and troubling. She wouldn’t have wished this on her worst enemy.
A question of sanity
After being accused of fraud, her life became a whirlwind of horror. She was summoned to court, and she was in real danger of losing the custody of her kids. The worst part about Lydia’s experience is that at one point, she even questioned her own truth.
She certainly remembered carrying her children to birth – but there was a horrible niggling part at the back of her mind that made her question herself. What a traumatic situation to be in.
Lydia Fairchild was in a horrific position – not only was she being accused of lying, but there would have been no clear way for her to prove she was telling the truth as she herself did not understand why and how the DNA test was coming back negative.
To help prove her case, Lydia called upon her obstetrician Dr. Leonard Dreisbach, who was indeed willing to stand as witness to her birth. He made a vow to help Lydia and joked about how he had been in the profession long enough to know when a woman was giving birth.
Calling in help
Another form of help came in her lawyer Alan Tindell. If she was going to win this case, then she needed as much professional advice as possible. Lydia’s case truly was a bizarre phenomenon.
Even Alan Tindell found he needed to be precautionary when investigating Lydia’s motives. Before he accepted her case, he needed to be sure. One question on everyone’s lips was – how can a DNA test be wrong? It simply didn’t make sense – to anyone!
A fraudulent birth mother
Lydia’s accusations were having a terrible toll on her. No one in the world could truly comprehend the way she was feeling. Lydia has since said how at dinner times when at the table feeding her babies, she would often burst into tears and they would rush to hug her not knowing why their mother was crying.
Her accusations were not only affecting her own sanity, but the warped lies were now emotionally affecting her children. She was at her wit’s end. In the court’s eyes, she was a fraudulent mother.
One more baby
What makes all of this even worse is how Lydia was pregnant with another child during all of these goings on. After she entered her third trimester, it was suggested that she should take a DNA test to test her link to her newly born child. She agreed, hoping for a positive result.
However, somehow, someway, yet again the DNA blood test proved that she was not the biological mother. How on earth could this be? Something else was going on surely? Something was amiss. But what exactly?
Like mother, like daughter
With more questions being asked, and no answers being made, Lydia’s own mother was turned to – she agreed to undertake another DNA testing to correlate her with her grandchildren. Thankfully, the results came back positive.
There was indeed a link between herself and Lydia’s three children. However, it was hard to celebrate the news. As although this was medical proof of there being a genetic link of some sort between Lydia and her children, there was still no hard evidence. Still, nothing made sense.
A similar case
As mentioned before, there was one woman who acted as Lydia’s shining glimmer of hope. Her name was Karen Keegan, and she was a fifty-two-year-old woman living in Boston. Like Lydia, she too had an anomalous result on a DNA result.
She found out when undergoing genetic tests in search of a kidney donor which somehow showed no correlation between her and her children. Noting her own similarities to Lydia’s situation, she got in touch and suggested she too take a cervical screening. Behold this became the missing answer!
A final missing link
After extracting DNA from Lydia’s cervix, the test had finally revealed a biological link to her children. Lydia was overjoyed at the news, and she couldn’t believe she had finally secured the well-needed evidence that she needed.
It was all thanks to Karen for coming forward and publically notifying how she herself had experienced the same disillusion to a DNA test. The answer to Lydia’s solution lay in the science of her cervical screening – finally a realization of why the test was proving negative.
The magic of cervical screening
So how did the cervical screening act as the evidence Lydia needed? The nature of the condition Chimerism relies on the body producing more than one genome for the material of our genetic makeup.
By taking a DNA test via the cervix during the gestation period of the woman’s menstrual cycle, the test could prove more than one genome had been providing Lydia with genetic material. Lydia’s condition is hard to come by, hence why the DNA test was considered to be nothing but correct for so long. Not anymore!
The nature of Chimerism is the same as what it is like in animals. Those who have Chimerism – know as chimeras – are technically born in the womb as twins. As the fertilized eggs start to develop, one of the twins is absorbed into the other.
Because this happens at an extremely early stage of the pregnancy, it is almost impossible for the mother to be aware she was initially carrying twins. It can be heartbreaking to discover!
Long lost twins
Even though the twin eggs are now one, the cells of DNA from the previously existing twin have not dissipated. Instead, they mass together into the genetic makeup of its twin.
Therefore, a chimera has more than one genome to distribute DNA material from. In the case of Karen, her genetic tests showed that the DNA in her thyroid was completely different from the makeup in her blood and hair. This would be the same for Lydia.
Enough evidence at last
With Lydia now diagnosed with her previously unknown life-long condition, she was officially declared as indeed the biological mother of her children. Thankfully, the court case against her had been dropped and she was rightly cleared of all charges.
Lydia’s strange situation finally answered all of these predicaments that were posed against her for so long. What’s more, Lydia and her boyfriend decided to give it another try. There was certainly a cause for celebration in her household.
A misunderstood phenomenon
Scientific research is still to this day attempting to understand the nature of chimerism fully. There are continuing ongoing studies into the phenomena of multiple genomes, and the genetic makeup of a chimera is still not fully understood.
In 2017, the nature of the cells in chimeras was even used in the research carried out for stem-cell use and the growing of human organs. Chimeras like Lydia really are unique humans.