Unknown sisters abandoned separately at birth in Va. reunited on camera 43 years later
It took 43 years for Donna Massie Wysong to decide to take a DNA test.
Abandoned at birth, Wysong knew nothing about her biological parents, whether she had any siblings, why she was left to die on a sidewalk in Norfolk, wrapped in a dirty towel, red yarn around her navel.
“I did question how someone could leave a baby that was just born on side of road in a dirty rag in the middle of winter,” Wysong told 7 ON YOUR SIDE in February of 2016, when she went public with the story of her abandonment for the first time.
The year before, sitting in her Alexandria home, Wysong had seen a news report on ABC7 News about a baby abandoned in Montgomery County.
“If no one wants her, I’ll keep her,” Wysong wrote on her Facebook page. “That’s what happened to me.”
Wysong was adopted by a wonderful family and never lacked for love. It’s the primary reason she never needed to look for her biological relatives; she grew up feeling fulfilled.
But after Wysong shared her story, Angela Trammel, a genealogical investigator with Kin Finder Group wrote to 7 ON YOUR SIDE and offered to help Wysong submit her DNA and search for her biological family free of charge. Wysong did not jump at the opportunity.
Fifty percent of the time, abandoned babies do not survive. The ones who do are called foundlings. It’s a passion of Trammel’s to help give them the gift of their identity.
It took Wysong nine months, the gestational period for a baby incidentally, to decide to take that test. That was November 2016.
7 ON YOUR SIDE'S Consumer Investigator Kimberly Suiters had hoped to produce a follow-up report, exactly one year after the 2016 interview. In fact, Suiters tied a small red piece of yarn to her mirror on her desk to remind her to follow up with Wysong every month.
But in January, Wysong sent Suiters a text. It read: “All we know is I’m half Irish. I don’t think it’s a story.”
In February, Wysong’s Irish heritage, and other DNA links, helped Trammel find distant relatives, then near relatives – including an aunt.
And then St. Patrick’s Day happened.
“You have a sister,” Trammel told Wysong. “A full-blooded, biological sister. Eleven months younger; an Irish twin, so to speak.” But Trammel wasn’t done.
“Your sister was also adopted. She also had been abandoned. Do you want to talk to her?”
Wysong was stunned. Speechless. Incredulous. Elated.
A few hundred miles south, Vanessa Smiley, was scared.
“I saw that this woman (Wysong) had hired a private investigator, and I didn’t know if she was going to show up at my house and I’ve got kids,” Smiley worried. “I thought I’d better talk to her and tell her not to come.”
But it is not an understatement to say the long lost sisters fell madly in love with each other from the moment they were connected.
They spent hours on FaceTime and Facebook and text and email. They stayed up until 3 a.m., night after night, making up for lost time.
“I’ve lost 43 years without you,” Smiley started to say. “I’m not going to lose one more day.”
“We are movin’, sister!” Wysong exclaimed. “Is this not INSANE?”
Eighteen miles from Wysong’s abandonment, Smiley had been left after birth in a box on the stoop of a vacant building in Virginia Beach. A door-to-door encyclopedia salesman thought he heard a kitten when he looked down and saw the newborn.
Like Wysong, Smiley was adopted by a loving family. She had no intention of looking for anyone from her past. But as a gift, her in-laws gave her the genealogical DNA kit as a way to find out about her heritage. On ancestry.com, the sisters were a perfect match.
Two weeks after they met by phone, Smiley flew into Washington, D.C. Wysong talked out loud as she speed-walked to baggage claim to meet – and touch – her little sister for the very first time.
“Vanessa told me, ‘It’s kind of weird that I’m flying in to stay with a perfect stranger,’” Wysong said. “I don’t even know how to process this. I feel like already know her.”
Wysong beamed as Smiley walked toward her. “Hey Love Bug! Holy #$%*!” she exclaimed as they embraced.
“Love you,” said Smiley calmly. “Missed you.”
A cloud hung over their happy reunion. A few days earlier, the sisters had reached out to their biological mother, wanting to know about their relatives, the circumstances of their births, and the sound of her voice.
Wysong wanted to thank the woman for her letting her live, and to forgive her if she sought forgiveness.
Smiley just wanted the facts.
Smiley was successful in getting the woman on the phone. She spoke to her biological daughter for the first time, whispering furtively in her garage. According to Smiley, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation. The woman spoke of being beaten by her father, and this new reality brought up that old torment.
At one point, Smiley said, “I’m not the one who put a baby in a box.”
Smiley said she was astounded by her biological mother’s response. “You put yourself in a box.”
(For the sake of privacy, 7 ON YOUR SIDE is not revealing the name of the biological mother or her location.)
The morning of the flight, Smiley received a scathing text from “bio mom” as the sisters refer to her, threatening to call police if they contacted her.
What’s painful for Smiley, is that she’s been told she looks and sounds exactly like the woman who abandoned them as helpless newborns.
“Because if anything I want to be a good wife and mama, and I don't want to be thought of like this person,” said Smiley, her voice quivering.
For Wysong, who was so ready to forgive, the rejection stings.
“She doesn't care about us,” said Wysong through tears. “So, no, she’ll never get to meet us.”
“Oh, don't cry about her,” said Smiley as she took her sister’s hand.
“I’m not crying about her,” said Wysong, as she wrapped her arms around her sister and rested her head on her shoulder. “It’s just a lot to take in.
Those tears, those hugs, that laughter lasted for the three days straight as the sisters caught up on 43 years.
They paired their nearly identical baby pictures. They laughed at their pigtails in their elementary school years. They noted that they’ve both “magically” gotten blonder, especially Wysong, over the years.
“She’s the sweet one,” Smiley said of her big sister.
“She’s the brave one," Wysong said of her little sister.
They marveled that they both chose their forty-third year of life to decide to submit a DNA test.
“I feel sorry for people who were abandoned in the past,” said Smiley. “Because this NEVER would have happened without technology.”
And then Trammel called with more family news.
“You have a brother.”
A full, biological, younger brother. But not abandoned. Bio mom kept him, and for the first time, informed his biological dad, that she had a son. She never told him about their two daughters.
“There are THREE of us?” Wysong yelled. “Three?”
“Oh my God,” said Smiley. “I'm so happy! This is best thing ever!”
“It's changed our life, you understand that?” Wysong added with a grin a mile wide.
During the last weekend of April, their brother flew to Washington with his wife, and the three siblings introduced their spouses and children to each other. An aunt came too, one that the siblings feel strongly bonded to for her abundance of maternal affection.
And it was not just a moment of euphoria when Wysong announced that they would be moving. She and Smiley are planning to uproot their families and plant themselves next to each other in Virginia Beach. Back to the place where they were left. Back to the place where they are now found.
View Vanessa Smiley's hospital intake forms from when she was found abandoned below:
Watch Wysong tell her story for the first time in the video below: