DNA test helps connect Magic Valley woman with biological family

Published: Apr. 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM MDT
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There are many DNA kits available online for those interested in finding out who they're related to or if they have any unknown medical conditions. But how do you know which one is more accurate than the other? KMVT is putting you first, on what you should know before choosing a kit.

"It was surreal. It took me a few days to sink in. It’s not 100 percent real to me," Sarah Hoy said, who used Ancestry.com to look for her biological father.

Hoy told KMVT that she was adopted when she was two days old.

"My adoptive mom and dad and took me home. I was raised in a really great family all up to 21 and just they did everything for me," she said.

Her mom sat her down at a young age and told her that she was adopted, saying they would talk about it when she was older.

On her 18th birthday, her parents gave her some information and she had no luck.

"I looked in yearbooks, newspapers and online and this and that and everything you could," she recalled.

She took a few years off from looking for her father.

"Then 21 to now, I've been searching again," Hoy said.

She said that her biological mother wrote her a letter with her father's sister's name, but they were spelled wrong.

Hoy said she even hired a private investigator to look for her father, but had no luck. He then suggested using Ancestry.com.

"I went ahead and went on there and of course, there was a person that was a close relative," she explain.

She emailed and texted that person just about a month or so ago.

"She said that 'I am trying to find my dad also,'" Hoy explained.

They both took tests to see how they were related and it turns out they were half sisters.

Three weeks later, they met up in Las Vegas and met for the first time.

"It was very emotional when we met. We cried and cried and cried when we met in Vegas," she recalled.

Hoy was able to connect with her father's sisters and learned that he passed away three years ago.

"I was very upset because I had been searching for 10 years hoping to find this guy and I finally find him and I get a text that he passed away," she told KMVT.

While she went to look for one result, she ended up with another: more family.

"They can help me build the memories of what he was and used to be," she said.

The Better Business Bureau said that about 26 million people worldwide have used a DNA kit such as 23andMe or Ancestry.com

"What we want to warn people about is just the privacy setting," said Jeremy Johnson, with the BBB.

While many are excited about being able to find family or figure out their unknown medical conditions, they ask consumers to be wary.

"There’s four main companies that do DNA kits and some of them release information to the FBI... So, you really want to make sure what information they’re releasing," she continued. "Just reading the fine print and seeing what is allowed."

While many might use an at-home DNA kit, Christina Ikard, a genetic counselor with St. Luke's Magic Valley, advised that if you do get medical information from them, make sure to follow up the results with a professional.

"Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry are what are usually called direct to consumer drug tests," Ikard explained. "The difference between that and the clinical type of genetic testing that we do is we are looking at different types of health traits. They’re also sometimes only analyzing parts of genes rather than looking at all of them."

Before making any adjustments to any results that came from an at-home DNA kit, she said to consult a doctor.

"Make sure you talk to someone you trust," Ikard said.

So how do you know if you should use one of the DNA kits or see a genetic counselor? Ikard said it's based on what you're goal is.

The genetic counselor can help diagnose a health problem as opposed to looking at who one might be related to.

Another issue is the privacy like Johnson mentioned earlier.

"People will do these types of Direct-to-Consumer tests and not think about who will get their DNA results after they do it. The clinical type of testing we do, obviously, we will put in a patients medical chart, so it's protected," she explained.

Safety is also a big issue with these tests. Hoy said that when she met her biological father's family, her adoptive mom went with her.

"I just took a risk and I had family with me," she said.

While she didn't find the father she wanted to, she gained other family.

"It’s crazy. All these new people in my life that I don’t know really how to go about it yet," Hoy said.