When a Washington mother applied for public assistance, she made a shocking discovery.
After Lydia Fairchild, 26, applied for public assistance in 2002 while unemployed, the state asked her and her family to undertake DNA testing in order to prove that they were related, according to ABC News. The test reportedly revealed that Lydia was not the biological mother of her two children -- a startling claim that she said she couldn't understand.
"I knew that I carried them, and I knew that I delivered them," she said. "There was no doubt in my mind."
After the DNA tests, the state suspected that Lydia may have abducted her children. She said that a social worker told her that the state could take her kids away at any time. After more DNA tests and three court hearings, Lydia felt that there was a real possibility of losing her children.
"I thought she was joking but then she started crying on the phone," said Carol Fairchild, Lydia's mother. "I said, 'Oh, it's got to be a mistake. I was there when the kids were born. I saw them come out. I held them in my arms, you know.'"
The tests showed that while Lydia's former boyfriend, Jamie Townsend, was the father of her children, she was not the mother. Lydia had another child on the way, and the state monitored her third child's birth, reports Business Insider.
After testing Lydia's newly born child, the results were the same: Lydia was not the genetic mother.
Prosecutors were "dumbfounded," according to Psychology Today. After some research, a strangely similar medical case from 1998 was discovered. A woman named Karen Keegan in Boston had also found that her children weren't a DNA match when she tried to get a kidney transplant.
With the discovery of Keegan's case, investigators began to piece together the truth about Lydia's situation.
Lydia and Keegan were revealed to have a rare condition called chimerism. People with chimerism -- also referred to as "chimeras," after the creature from Greek mythology -- are born from eggs that were fused with another egg after conception, resulting in a single egg with two separate DNA blueprints.
People with chimerism can be hermaphroditic if the eggs were different sexes, or can have features like two different colored eyes or differently colored patches of skin. Lydia, through her chimeric condition, was found to have an "invisible twin" living in her DNA blueprint.
Lydia said that Keegan's story was instrumental in discovering the truth about her condition -- and the eventual return of her children.
"I probably wouldn't have my kids today if they didn't discover her situation. They wouldn't have known to even consider me as a chimera," said Lydia.