When Tina Ennis took an Ancestry.com DNA test in 2019, she hoped to track down her estranged grandfather. Instead, Ennis learned that she was switched at birth with a woman named Jill Lopez.
Ennis and Lopez, both 57, were born on the same day in 1964, and grew up about two hours away from one another in Oklahoma. They were total strangers until two years ago when at the age of 55 they discovered they each went home from the hospital with the other’s biological parents.
Now Ennis and Lopez are opening up in a joint interview with NBC NEWS’s Kate Snow about the revelation that turned their lives upside down.
"It’s a hard... It’s a hard thing to get around,” Lopez told Snow on Tuesday.
"I mean it was just like, all I could think about was how I was going to tell my mom," an emotional Ennis shared. "I just thought she's not going to be able to handle it. That's what I thought about."
Kathryn Jones, the woman who raised Ennis but gave birth to Lopez, told Snow that she was "totally devastated" when she learned what happened. Jones said it was as if "somebody took a hatchet" to her heart.
"She was afraid she was going to lose me," Ennis explained. "And she wasn't going to. I wasn't going to leave her."
Ennis' biological parents passed away before she had a chance to meet them, but Lopez has been getting to know Jones. The women both love the color purple, shopping, and estate sales. They also share the same blue eyes. Lopez described her relationship with Jones as friends.
"And it's a very good start," Jones noted. But no matter what, Ennis will always be her little girl.
"I could not lose Tina. She'll always be my daughter," Jones said. "I have loved her from the second they laid her in my arms."
In an earlier interview with NBC's Snow, Lopez said she never suspected she wasn't biologically related to her family. But Ennis had some questions.
"I looked at a picture one day, and it was my two sisters and my mom and me and I couldn't find anything on any of those faces that looked like me," she recalled. "There was like no resemblance."
All three women want to hold the hospital responsible. Represented by Smith Barkett Law Group, they have filed suit against the current regional hospital, Duncan Regional Hospital, who they argue merged long ago with the hospital where they were born.
Cyndi Crook, Community Relations Director at Duncan Regional Hospital, issued the following statement:
"It is the practice of Duncan Regional Hospital to not comment publicly on pending litigation. However, in this particular matter, please note that Duncan Regional Hospital is a not-for-profit corporation that did not come into existence until 1976."
The statement adds that Duncan Regional Hospital is "not the legal successor" to the hospital that Lopez and Ellis say switched them at birth.
Since both delivering doctors and the nurses involved in 1964 have passed away, no one really knows how the babies may have been switched.
The families are continuing to process their grief, regret and anger.
"It's a hard thing to know what to do, you know, because there's no books to buy [to] get you through it," Lopez said.
"There's so many people involved," Ennis added. "It's not just me and Jill. It's two entire families."