Hear the unbelievable story of two sisters who never knew each other until a chance meeting.

Sometimes a chance meeting can seem almost like destiny.

Holly Hoyle O'Brien and Meagan Hughes were both hired as nurses at Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, within months of each other, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

They both worked on the hospital's fourth floor, which was home to the medical surgical unit, and they first met when a patient told O'Brien there was another nurse from Korea at the hospital, suggesting they get acquainted.


Meagan Hughes on the left; Holly Hoyle O'Brien on the right. All GIFs via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The women began to realize they shared a very similar history.

After discovering they were both from Korea, the pair noticed they had other details in common — spending part of their childhood in orphanages, being born in the same city, and being listed as "abandoned" on orphanage paperwork.

Images via video by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

They had both also been adopted by American families. O'Brien's birth name was Pok-nam Shin, and she'd been adopted by a family in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1978, when she was 9 years old. Hughes, who is two years younger than O'Brien, was born Eun-Sook Shin, and she was adopted in 1976. Hughes grew up in Kingston, New York.

When O'Brien and Hughes discovered they both had "Shin" as their last name as children in South Korea, they wondered if they could be related.

O'Brien remembered having a younger sister as a child, though her paperwork from the orphanage didn't list a biological sister. "I just had this curiosity that I said, 'We need to do a DNA test,'" Hughes told the Herald-Tribune. Driven by curiosity, they decided to go ahead with the test.

The DNA test revealed something shocking — O'Brien and Hughes were sisters who were separated more than 40 years ago.

"I printed out the paper and I was completely stunned," O'Brien told People about the test results. "I said, 'This can't be.'" O'Brien told the Herald-Tribune that she "cried and cried" after hearing the news that she'd finally found her sister.

After confirming the news with the lab over the phone, O'Brien texted Hughes.

As it turns out, the girls had the same father. O'Brien knew him — she says he was an alcoholic and was hit by a train and killed when she was a child. They each had different birth mothers; O'Brien remembered that she had a younger sister, while Hughes was too young to remember her birth parents or her half-sister.

Now, Hughes and O'Brien are more than close work friends — they're family.

O'Brien says she is excited to spend the holiday season with Hughes and her two children, who are now O'Brien's nieces. O'Brien has no children of her own and feels blessed to have newfound family.

"I have this very strong belief that God must be, like, whatever I've done, I must've done something good in my life," O'Brien said to the Herald-Tribune.

We've all heard of strange coincidences, but Hughes and O'Brien's story is truly amazing.

It's hard to say what drew these sisters together, whether it was fate or just their love of the nursing field and helping others. But for everyone who has a sister or a brother, you can imagine the wonderful feeling they must have felt when they were reunited.

Watch the moving video from the Herald-Tribune here:

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."