"My first reaction was like, 'Oh my God.' I was in shock, I was numb. I have a sister," Meagan Hughes said

By Diane Herbst
Updated October 12, 2015 04:15 PM
Credit: Dan Wagner/Sarasota Herald-Tribune/AP

Over 40 years after two orphaned sisters were separated in South Korea, they reunited while working on the same floor of a Sarasota, Florida, hospital.

Meagan Hughes, 44, and Holly Hoyle O’Brien, 46, had not seen each other since the early 1970s, and were astonished when they learned through a DNA test they were sisters, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

As a very young child, O’Brien, originally named Pok-nam Shin, was left in the care of her alcoholic father after her mother died.

Her father remarried and had Hughes – named Eun-Sook Shin. But soon after Hughes’ birth, her mother took her and left the family, leaving O’Brien, then about 2 years old, with her father.

By the time O’Brien was five, her dad died and she ended up in an orphanage. Four years later in 1978, an American family from Alexandria, Virginia, adopted her.

Hughes, meanwhile, also ended up in a Korean orphanage, and was adopted by an American family in New York in 1976.

Hughes tells The Sarasota Herald-Tribune she was too young to remember her father, recalls little about her biological mother and has faint memories of a Korean orphanage.

While growing up in Virginia, O’Brien woke up in tears one night and said, “My daddy died, I have a sister, we need to find her,'” she told the newspaper.

O’Brien’s mother contacted the orphanage, but they were unable to find any records of a biological sister. Decades later, O’Brien’s husband again asked the orphanage if Holly had a sister, but were again unable to confirm her suspicion.

“But in my heart, I knew,” O’Brien told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “I knew she was out there somewhere.”

Fate ultimately brought them together.

O’Brien, a certified nurse’s aide, began working at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota on January 7. Hughes, also a nurse’s aide, was hired two months later to work on the same floor and during the same shift as O’Brien.

The pair immediately hit it off. As the duo compared their family histories, they found that both had “abandonment” listed on their orphanage paperwork, both had been adopted by American families and both had the same Korean last name.

“I was like, ‘This is too good to be true,’ ” O’Brien tells the newspaper. “I said, ‘We’ve got to do the DNA test, it’s the only way we’ll get the truth out of the whole thing.’ ”

She sent off for a test from Canada, the pair performed mouth swabs and awaited the lab results. After so many decades of wondering, the lab results returned on Aug. 17 showed a positive match.

“I’m like, ‘This can’t be,’ ” O’Brien tells The Herald-Tribune. “I was trembling, I was so excited, I was ecstatic.”

Hughes had a similar reaction: “When I heard from Holly, my first reaction was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was in shock, I was numb. I have a sister.”