"How do you hug someone in a way that makes up for 42 years of hugs?" asked Jimmy Lippert Thyden of Virginia after reuniting with his Chilean birth mother last week after an entire life of separation.
According to the Associated Press, the US citizen and former Marine began searching for his birth family in April of this year, when he read stories of Chilean-born adoptees finding their birth parents with the help of the local nonprofit Nos Buscamos.
Thyden was born prematurely in Santiago, Chile in the early 1980s to a woman named Maria Angelica Gonzalez. While he was being treated in an incubator, hospital staff discharged his mother. When she returned to see her baby in his incubator, she was told he had passed away and his body was disposed of. He was then adopted out to a family in the United States.
Non-profit organizations trying to repair broken family ties
This kind of trafficking was evidently commonplace during the 17-year rule of Augusto Pinochet, according to the AP.
Over the last decade, Nos Buscamos and similar groups like Hijos y Madres del Silencio and Connecting Roots have reunited many hundreds of parents with long-lost children.
Nos Buscamos in particular has partnered with Israeli genealogy platform MyHeritage to further their cause and provide free at-home DNA testing kits to Chilean adoptees worldwide.
“The real story was these kids were stolen from poor families, poor women that didn’t know. They didn’t know how to defend themselves,” Constanza del Río, founder and director of Nos Buscamos told the AP.
Thyden's reunification with his birth mother
After taking one of these tests, Thyden confirmed that he is 100% Chilean and even found a first cousin who was registered in the MyHeritage database. Through the cousin, he eventually connected with his birth mother and began texting her pictures of himself and his wife and children.
Thyden and his family traveled to Chile soon after and were greeted in Gonzalez's home with 42 balloons, one for each year of stolen time.
The two had a joyful, tearful reunion, although Thyden pointed out that not all reunification attempts would necessarily be as successful as his own.
“It could have been a much worse story,” he told the AP. “There are people who find out some really unfortunate details about their origin.”