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Genetic testing helps Lewisville woman find family she didn't know she had

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For 15 years Elica Terry has made it a point to donate blood.

She said when a local radio station would have its annual blood drive, she was there.  

“I guess I had the blood type they need a lot of,” said the Lewisville resident.

But while Terry knew her decision to donate could save people’s lives she never guessed it would spark a conversation that would change hers.

“I donate blood quite often, and one day I was talking to my mom about my blood type,” said Terry, 49. “She said, ‘how is that possible?’”

It turns out Terry’s blood type was not the same as her mother’s or as the man who she thought was her father.

So Terry decided to purchase a DNA kit from the genetic testing company 23andMe to see what it led to.

“It was $100, but it was worth it,” Terry said.

The kit included a test tube where she would deposit her saliva and send it off to be tested. Six weeks later in October she was alerted of the results.

Terry was directed to the company’s website where she learned not only did she have a half sister whose DNA was a match in the system but also a father.

“Let me tell you, I could not work,” Terry said. “I was in shock.”

With news of Terry’s half sister and father, that opened up a whole new list of family members she never knew she had.

“I have several cousins, nieces and nephews,” Terry said. “I always thought I had a small family. But I guess not.”

As luck would have it

Looking back Terry said fate had its hand in this life changing news. She said the DNA kits for her, her sister and father were all purchased around the same time.

“It was really odd,” Terry said. “I would have never known if they hadn’t signed up.”

Instantly Terry, her new half sister Kimberly, and their father messaged each other. Kimberly and their father both live in the Houston area.

Kimberly, 48, said she has purchased DNA kits from other companies before but was intrigued because 23andMe offers health profiles.

“Usually I get requests about second or third cousins,” Kimberly said. “Over Thanksgiving I got a message to connect, and I thought it was another cousin. But it said I had a half sister. I thought I was an only child, so it was a big shock.”

Kimberly said she always felt like she had siblings somewhere.

Since the discovery the sisters have stayed in touch daily, mostly through texts.

“We just keep each other in the loop,” Kimberly said. “I’ve never had anyone to do that with.”

A lot to learn

Terry said learning of her new family members has given her a sense of who she is and where she got certain qualities.

“My sister and I have a lot in common,” she said. “She told me about my dad. I’m a lot like him, too. We both have tempers, we don’t like large groups and we’re both good with our hands since he’s in construction.”

Kimberly said she can also see similarities between her father and Terry.

“My dad raced cars, boats and had motorcycles,” Kimberly said. “It seems like she’s the same way.”

Terry said finding out her birth father is still out there has been important to her. In fact she plans to change her last name to match his – she said the man she thought was her father was hardly around anyway.

Soon the sisters will get to see up close how much they have in common. They are trying to find a time to meet somewhere between Lewisville and Houston for a lunch.

Terry said they had planned to meet last year but because of the COVID-19 pandemic that got postponed. With COVID-19 case numbers dropping and the anticipation growing Terry said the two expect to meet in the comings weeks.

“I’m so excited I can’t sit down,” Terry said. “I’m dying to meet her.”

Terry said when they meet, it will likely just be the two of them. She said it’s unclear if her father will join them.

“I’m hoping,” Terry said. “I know he wants to meet me, but it would be very hard. He may feel like he let me down.”

She said she and her father haven’t spoken yet as news he has another daughter has been a lot to absorb.

“He feels very sad,” Terry said. “All this time has passed, and he feels ashamed. But it’s not his fault.”

Kimberly said she has talked to her father about meeting Terry.

“He doesn’t feel like he can make up for 50 years,” Kimberly said. “He feels like he would do her a disservice. But I told him that she’s not expecting that. I’m hoping once the shock wears off that he’ll want to.”

For now it’ll likely just be the two sisters, but they’ll have plenty to catch up on.

“We’re going to talk about our lives, our similarities,” Kimberly said. “We’re going to talk about if we’ve done the same things and if we’ve made the same mistakes.”

Terry expects to learn a lot more about her family history, even though she’s taken in a lot already. That includes a mystery that has finally been solved.

“My mom used to say, ‘I don’t know where you got that from,’” Terry said.

Now she does.

Follow Chris Roark on Twitter!

@Reporter_Chris

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