MERIDIAN, Idaho — Imagine growing up with a family who you thought were your biological parents and siblings, only to find out years later that you were donor conceived. That is the new reality of a Meridian resident, Nichole Mclendon.
“I was not told I was donor conceived. I had told my parent I took a DNA test. They knew I would find it,” said Mclendon.
It started with a random Facebook message from a stranger, that reads: ‘Hey you’re number 58 congratulations. We have the same donor.’
Mclendon said, “I went home that night and opened up my 23 and Me account.”
What was supposed to be a random, fun amazon purchase, made the news that much more concrete.
“I saw I connected to 10 people and it didn’t make sense and my mom says, you and your sister need to come over,” said Mclendon.
McLendon’s half-sister started the search in 1992, since then they have connected with 67 half-siblings born between 1955-1984.
“We are finding a new one every two to three months,” Mclendon said.
She was handed a book with all the information she needed to know about the donor, Henry Hank Heemsoth.
“Hank was a great guy. He served his country. He worked in Detroit. He had 4 boys he raised," said Mclendon.
But the surprises did not end there, Hank worked as a landscaper at the fertility clinic where his wife was a patient, and where Mclendon says he was asked to donate.
“With his wife’s support and encouragement, he donated for, the best we can determine based on talking to his kids, 30 years, weekly. There are a lot of me’s out there, but he did it with a good heart,” said Mclendon.
According to an article published by her half-sister, she says the Detroit area sperm provider estimates there are about 3,000 siblings from Hank. This caused a lot of concerns for her family.
"Thank goodness we have yet to find anyone who has dated a half-sibling or married a half-sibling, but it's entirely possible. When you go out one more generation to my kids and their kids, what does that mean for them," McLendon said.
The number of times a person can donate is different for each clinic and state. Here in Idaho, Nation Wide Egg Donation and Surrogacy says their embryo donor limit is six times.
Nation Wide Egg Donation and Surrogacy’s President, Tiffany Valentine says, "We don't know what goes on beyond when they leave us. You have fertility clinics, I hate to say it, not in Idaho but like in California. I hate to say it, they are like Starbucks, they are everywhere and to keep track of how many times they are donating within a 50-mile radius, and if he's not going through the same agency, it's kind of impossible.”
Although Nichole found out she was a product of a donor at a later age, she hopes other families will be honest and talk to their children at a younger age.
"I understand that desire to have a family, but you have to be honest with your kids. They are a gift and another person is helping you with that gift. Do not lie.” McLendon said.
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