As a child, Fred George never fit in. His Lebanese family was a dark-haired, outgoing bunch, while he was a shy blond. Across town, another boy, Jim Churchman -- the only brunette in his fair Scottish family -- felt the same way.
"People teased me when I was younger," says George. "They said: 'You're a Churchman' ... but I didn't want to know."
What was suspicion became truth. At the age of 57, long after George had moved to the U.S., the two men finally had a DNA test and discovered they'd been switched at birth. Born just two hours apart on Christmas Eve in 1946 in Dunedin, New Zealand, they'd been placed in the wrong bassinets at the hospital.
This week George flew back to New Zealand to surprise the mother who never had a chance to raise him, Helen Churchman, on her 82nd birthday. "I feel I've two families," George said. "And I've been so lucky to have had two mothers." There's also a big blow-out planned for the reunion of the two changelings.
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What's remarkable about this story is that on some level, the boys and their families knew there was a mix-up. It was palpable. Even their neighbors suggested it. But think about it: What would you do if you suspected your child -- maybe now half-grown -- really belonged to someone else? It's an impossible dilemma.
George says he's spent much of his life in an "identity crisis." In his book, "Switched at Birth: My Life in Someone Else's World," he describes growing up with a father who said he did not believe George was his. The mother who raised him told the nurse in the hospital she had given her the wrong baby. "Don't be silly," chuckled the nurse, George wrote.
Helen Churchman, the only parent still living, says she feels the same way. "It was an unusual thing to happen," she recently told the Patriot Ledger. "But ... it's fine. I've got two sons now ... it's lovely for Fred to be part of our family."
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