Switched-at-birth victim: ‘I wish I had my life back’
A WOMAN who spent her childhood at the centre of a shocking switched-at-birth horror story, which later inspired a movie, has opened up about her tumultuous years out of the spotlight.
Kimberly Mays’ life changed forever in 1988 when she was 10 years old and genetic tests revealed she and another girl, Arlena Twigg, had been given to the wrong parents shortly after their births in 1978 at Hardee Memorial Hospital in Wachula, Florida.
In a new interview with Barbara Walters, which aired in the US on Monday, Kimberly, now 36, said the mix-up and subsequent tug of war over the teen tore her life apart.
“I wish I had my life back. A normal life. It’s ruined. I don’t have a normal life,” she told Walters.
Barbara and Robert Mays were sent home from hospital with a baby girl they named Kimberly, who was actually the biological daughter of Ernest and Regina Twigg.
At the same time the Twiggs were handed their new baby, who they named Arlena, without realising she was the biological daughter of the Mays.
It wasn’t until years later, when Arlena was nine years old and had a routine blood test for a congenital heart defect, the mistake was revealed.
Alena died that same year.
Kimberly’s father Robert Mays refused to let them test his daughter for another two years. When he finally gave in, the test proved that Kimberly was the biological daughter of the Twiggs, the New York Daily News reported.
Barbara died of cancer in 1981 and never knew the truth.
Kimberly Mays with the Twigg family. Picture: Investigation Discovery ChannelSource:Supplied
Kimberly met the Twiggs shortly after the revelations were made but said it was incredibly difficult.
According to Kimberly, things got tough when the Twiggs asked to be called “mum and dad” and wanted to change her name to Arlena.
The Twiggs fought to gain custody of Kimberly, accusing her father, Robert Mays, of bribing the hospital to switch the infants due to Arlena’s illness, People reported.
Both families were reportedly involved in lawsuits with the hospital, with the Twiggs settling for $7 million and the Mays family for $6.6 million.
A TV movie based on the story of Kimberly and Arlena, Switched at Birth, was released in 1991.
In August 1993, then 14-year-old Kimberly battled a highly publicised lawsuit to divorce her biological parents and won the landmark case, only to move in with them six months later.
In the troubled teenage years that followed, she spent time with both families.
“Honestly, I had an identity crisis. I wanted to find out who I was and what my roots were, how they were as a family and a unit,” she told Walters of her decision to move in with her biological parents.
Switched at birth victim Kimberly Mays Twigg aged 14 in 1993, with father Robert and his wife Darlena Mays, made headlines when she received permission to divorce her biological parents and live with the Mays, who had raised her from birth.Source:AP
Kimberly Mays was switched at birth when she was born in 1978.Source:News Limited
She said the resentment from her biological siblings drove her to leave two years later. “They just, I guess, harboured resentment at the fact that Regina was so consumed with the switch, so consumed with me,” she said.
“I couldn’t handle the resentment, the bickering and arguing and yelling at me. They wanted their mum back.”
Kimberly married her high school sweetheart Jeremy Weeks in February 1997 when she was just 18 and gave birth to her son Devin that same year.
She divorced Weeks by the time she was 22, and married a second time.
In the years since, Kimberly — now a mother of six — has been homeless, worked as a stripper, moved more than two dozen times and cut all ties with her parents.
“I did it [stripping] for money. To put a roof over my head and food in my stomach. And diapers on my daughter Jasmine,” she said.
Regina Twigg has not spoken to Kimberly in 10 years, but said she still loves the little girl she lost at the hospital more than 30 years ago.
However, she said she never wanted to see Kimberly again and added that chapter of her life was now closed, according to People.
Kimberly now works at a call centre in Clearwater.
The Barbara Walters and Kimberly Mays interview is not scheduled to air on Australian television.