Kimberly Mays Was Switched at Birth — but That Was Only the Beginning of Her Story

Jennifer Tisdale - Author
By

Jan. 17 2024, Published 5:48 p.m. ET

Arlena Twigg and Kimberly Mays
Source: YouTube/ABC News (video stills)

(L-R): Arlena Twigg and Kimberly Mays

According to reports, it's almost impossible to track how many babies are nearly or actually switched at birth. This is due to the fact that hospitals are not required to report these mistakes. What a terrifying thought. The only way we can definitively say a child has been switched at birth is if the child or someone involved with them makes the discovery themselves. That is precisely what happened to Kimberly Mays, who was raised by a family that wasn't her own.

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The incident happened in late 1978 and would go unnoticed until the other child, Arlena Twigg, died in 1987 from complications related to open heart surgery, reported ABC News. It was during this time that doctors realized Arlena's blood type indicated the Twiggs were not her biological parents. Their daughter, Kimberly, was alive and well but they had no idea who she was or where she ended up. What happened to Kimberly Mays? This story is the stuff of movies.

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What happened to Kimberly Mays? Being switched at birth was just the beginning.

On Nov. 29, 1978, Barbara Mays gave birth to her first and only child. She and her husband Bob had been trying to have a baby for years, but struggled to get pregnant. When it finally happened, the couple was overjoyed. Sadly their daughter, who they named Kimberly, was born with a severe heart condition which they would never have to deal with because their daughter wasn't going home with them.

A few days later on Dec. 2, Regina and Ernest Twigg were in the same hospital as the Mays family. Regina would go on to give birth to her seventh child who they named Arlena. She said Arlena was the "sweetest, sweetest little, precious little child that you ever, ever have known in your entire life." The Twiggs had to monitor their daughter's physical activity because she was born with a congenital heart defect. In 1987, they made the difficult decision to schedule open heart surgery for Arlena.

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It was at this time the Twiggs learned that based on Arlena's blood type, she couldn't possibly be their biological daughter. When she passed away days later due to complications, it was as if they lost their daughter a second time. "Even so, nothing would have ever changed our hearts [about her]," said Regina to The Washington Post in September 1988.

Regina and Arlena Twigg
Source: YouTube/ABC News (video stills)

Regina Twigg with Arlena Twigg

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The Twiggs began searching for their missing daughter and learned that the only other white infant born at the hospital when Arlena was born belonged to the Mays family. They located Kimberly through a detective. She was being raised by her father after Barbara died of cancer when Kimberly was just 2 years old. It was Bob who had to break the devastating news to his daughter.

Kimberly Mays eventually legally divorced herself from her biological parents.

Before she even discovered she was not the biological daughter of Bob Mays, Kimberly's life was very chaotic. Her father married a woman by the name of Cindy Tanner mere months after Barbara passed away. Until she was 6 years old, Kimberly believed Cindy was her actual mother. Bob and Cindy divorced in 1988, and by 1990, Bob was married to his third wife Darlene.

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By the time she found out about being switched at birth, Kimberly was processing a lot. Bob did not want Kimberly to get to know the Twiggs, but they were soon granted five visits together. After the fifth, Bob cut them off so the Twiggs "went to court to get visitation, trying various legal stratagems," per ABC News. Once again Kimberly was caught in the middle, which is what contributed to her decision to divorce her biological parents in the summer of 1993.

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At the time, Kimberly was 14 years old and was granted the divorce which also denied the Twiggs visitation rights. While speaking with ABC News in November 2019, Kimberly revealed she regretted divorcing her biological parents. A few months after the divorce, "Patsy Webb, a nurse’s aide from the hospital where the babies had been switched, came forward, claiming that Dr. Palmer [a family practitioner at the hospital] had told her to switch the ID bracelets," per the outlet. Sadly, it was too late to bring criminal charges against him.

In July 1991, the Twiggs settled a lawsuit against the Florida hospital where Arlena and Kimberly were born. They were awarded $3.5 million from the Florida Patient's Compensation Fund, reported the Tampa Bay Times. Separately from this, Kim received money from the hospital that she sold to an "annuity company in a structured settlement," in 1996. Kim won't have access to that until she turns 70. As of November 2019, Kim was married a second time and has five children of her own. Her relationship with the Twiggs was strained.

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