By Casey Duncan

I am the recipient parent to two donor conceived people. One of them was “switched before birth.”

Building My Family

I conceived my children with the help of NW Cryobank, formerly located in Spokane, Washington. At the time it was the only cryobank that would send donor sperm to our home so we could have a private, at home, intracervical insemination (ICI).

My son was born in 2002, and within the first year, I connected with other parents who used the same donor. My son grew up knowing he had donor-siblings, or “diblings,” as we called the other children. He knew their moms and I frequently updated each other on milestones and health considerations. 

In late 2003, my then-partner and I decided to grow our family, and we again turned to NW Cryobank. The donor we used to conceive my son was no longer available, so we searched donor profiles and found two we felt were a good match.

After seven cycles using both donors, we conceived my daughter. I kept every shipping invoice, every prescription receipt, and even the very last vial we used. I didn’t know it then, but that information would be critical years down the road.

Unlike my son, my daughter had medical issues from her first day of life, and instead of things getting better with time, they deteriorated. For every medical encounter, I passed along our donor’s health history, and in every situation, that health history was considered. Each time I handed it to someone, I believed the information was accurate. I believed that with my entire being because we trusted NW Cryobank’s website. We trusted their paperwork. And we trusted their people.


I was never able to find other families who used the same donor as I did to conceive my daughter, but when she was little and needed so much time and attention, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. But in 2017, my daughter started expressing the desire to know about her “diblings.” She was 12 at the time and had known that my son (then 15) knew and was in contact with his group of diblings. 

I started to search everywhere I could think of using the donor number and cryobank name. I even bought all three of us 23andMe DNA tests. I found nothing on Facebook, where my son’s diblings’ moms had a group just for us. Nothing came up in Google searches, and aside from her brother, there were no half-sibling matches on 23andMe. 

When we became members of the Donor Sibling Registry, I immediately found two entries for three other children whose parents used the same donor. After locating and contacting the families, my daughter and I were quickly face to face with photos of the other children and began getting to know them. My daughter was the oldest, and she enjoyed that status because she was the youngest in our family.

The moms and I connected through social media, and all was fine for a while. Then one of the moms ran a 23andMe DNA test on her son. Weeks later, she contacted me and asked if my daughter’s 23andMe results were visible to matches. I checked and confirmed that her results were. The other mom wrote back and said it was really strange because her son was not matching with my daughter.

I stood there in utter shock as I realized that my daughter was not a genetic match to the other children whose moms had used the same donor.

What do you do with information like that?

Looking for Answers

The next week, I called NW Cryobank and reached someone with whom I shared the short version of the “my daughter is not genetically linked to other children of this donor” story.

The employee asked if I had reported my daughter’s birth. I had reported my son’s; however, with all the chaos that ensued with my daughter’s arrival and medical fragility as a newborn, I had not reported hers. The employee said there was no way she could tell me what donor numbers were sent to me because I hadn’t reported my daughter’s birth in 2005, meaning her file had not been converted to their database and was instead “destroyed in a basement flood.” I told the NW Cryobank employee that I had reported a 2002 birth, and wouldn’t the more recent records also be included under my name? She said there was nothing she could do to help. I was stunned. 

I stood there in utter shock as I realized that my daughter was not a genetic match to the other children whose moms had used the same donor.

What do you do with information like that?

Casey Duncan

I could not put off the conversation with my daughter, so we had a very difficult talk, and for days I beat myself up over not reporting her birth. Then I remembered—I had the envelope with all the information in my dresser drawer.

With my proverbial “ducks in a row,” I called the cryobank again and informed them I had the shipping invoices showing the donor number and when it was shipped. I even had the vial from the final cycle. Suddenly, I had a phone meeting set up with someone in administration. We went over everything and—lo and behold—the cryobank actually did have information for my 2003 and 2004 purchases.

The cryobank sent DNA testing supplies for both my daughter and myself fairly quickly, and those were tested against the two donors whose sperm I purchased. Weeks later, I got the call: She was not a match for either donor.

I had absolutely no idea what to do and asked the cryobank, expecting there must be a plan of action. Surely I was not the first person to experience an issue like this. But the answer I got was “I don’t really know. Keep checking the commercial DNA sites until she matches with someone.”


The administrator asked for my daughter’s blood type, which I provided, and the cryobank indicated this would help narrow down the possibilities for which donor actually was used in her conception. 

I have no idea if they did anything with the information because I never heard back.

The Fallout

In the midst of all of this, my son’s donor reached out to him via 23andMe. He had been waiting for potential matches and was excited to find my son and two of the other kids. All of them were soon in contact with the donor, and a family get together was quickly planned for the summer of 2019 so that all of us could meet in eastern Washington. It was an amazing experience for everyone, but in the happiness of it all, I felt tremendously guilty because my daughter’s own half sibling group had just been unceremoniously ripped away from her.

My daughter and I struggled a great deal with the situation, which I took to calling “Switched Before Birth.” I sank into depression and anxiety. She sank into the same in addition to developing an eating disorder that landed her in the adolescent ICU at a local children’s hospital. And she no longer had what we had believed was accurate family medical history. 

So there we were, lost and alone after NW Cryobank told us there was nothing more they could do to help find which donor’s sperm was sent in a vial marked with my chosen donor’s number. 

Not knowing the answer colored every aspect of our lives, and it would consume my thoughts for days and weeks at a time. 

How could this happen? How does a company make a mistake this big when it comes to creating human beings? How could the cryobank leave us to cope with everything alone? 

In my ongoing search for answers and a path forward, I ordered an AncestryDNA kit for my daughter hoping one of the DNA sites would eventually get a match. Then 2020 hit and the world shut down, but my daughter was finally able to get an appointment with a therapist to help her process everything she had been going through since the discovery. I was in therapy prior to finding out, and I was desperately trying to make peace with the unknown. 

Finding the Donor

Several years passed, and then in spring of 2023, a donor-related sibling reached out to my daughter on 23andMe. We finally received a donor number when the sibling’s mom emailed me the donor packet. My daughter and I went over every inch of it. 

How could this happen? How does a company make a mistake this big when it comes to creating human beings? How could the cryobank leave us to cope with everything alone? 

Casey Duncan

I emailed my contact at the cryobank to request they connect our newly discovered donor information to my daughter’s record. Instead I received a response thanking me for the information but saying the cryobank could not confirm this was the correct donor. I was advised to “not count on it.” They offered to call the donor to see if he would be willing to take a DNA test but advised that I shouldn’t hold out hope. 

That was it. I was furious. What were we to do now?

Then I came across DNAngels on TikTok and completed the form on their website, giving a condensed version of my story and preparing to wait the months the site said it might take. To my surprise, I was contacted a couple of days later. Using the information from my daughter’s AncestryDNA report, my team not only located the donor but found more information than I ever thought I would need: his name, his address, his phone number, his mother’s name, and his brother’s name, among other information. I saw photos, and the team sent me links to background checks for the donor and his mother.

I once again emailed the cryobank and asked to confirm that the name I had was the name connected to the new donor number. They informed me they could not confirm the information because the donor had not given consent.

His consent? Really? It was ironic given that I had been inseminated with sperm from a donor other than the one that I consented to when I made my choice and purchases, and it was because the cryobank mislabeled the vials.

I had been living in this untenable place for years and was reaching the end of my ability to cope. But I had the probable donor’s phone number. I had his home address. I had more than I needed to move forward on my own.

Making Contact

It was a Friday evening. I picked up my phone and entered the phone number provided by my DNAngels team into a text message. I typed:

Hi—is this still the number for {first name}?

He confirmed it was and asked who wanted to know.

Hi. I know this is going to be weird but please just hear me out. Once upon a time, you donated to a cryobank. Unfortunately, some of it was mislabeled and sold under a different donor number.

I was unknowingly caught up in the mix up and I gave birth to a beautiful daughter in Feb. of 2005. For the first 13 years, I believed we had the correct health information for her but her donor siblings did DNA testing and she was not a match for them. It was then that I realized she was ‘switched before birth.’

I went on to give some more information and then closed:

She is 18 now and we have been on this five year awful and painful journey of trying to figure out what took place at the cryobank to cause this chain of events. So while I never consented to having your DNA as part of my child, I am so grateful she exists.

I attached a recent photo of my daughter. He was understandably shocked and responded, “She is beautiful! That is wonderful.” 

We ended up texting for hours. When he sent a photo of himself, he felt . . . familiar. His eyes have the same sparkle as my daughter’s. And after texting that night and agreeing to keep his information private, I found a level of peace I never imagined possible in this situation. My daughter is more at peace now as well.

Moving Forward

Of course I once again contacted the cryobank and this time I received an email from the vice president of Cooper Surgical, requesting a Zoom meeting. We met and I shared the story. He said he would speak with his team and get back to me. When we met the second time, he said the company was not responsible for what happened because they had not owned the cryobank when I made my purchases. They offered me $8000 and a non-disclosure agreement. 

I told him the bank had a responsibility because they were still selling vials for all three donors—both the ones whose sperm I thought that I purchased and the one whose sperm I actually received. I also let him know I was in the early wave of the LGBTQIA2+ community that used cryobanks to create their families and that if this happened to me, I was willing to bet it had happened to others as well. 

Needless to say, I was offended by their offer and declined the NDA.

The cryobank should probably get used to seeing my name in the donor conception community and in publications because after this journey I was shocked to learn there is little to no oversight for the fertility and assisted reproduction industry. I believed that my donors’ health history had been checked and verified, and that the donor had undergone testing at the initial donation, at every donation after that, and again six months after the final donation. I later learned that other than testing for sexually transmitted illnesses, no other testing or verification is legally required. And I have since been told that some cryobank contracts now forbid recipient parents from DNA testing their minor children.

My question is this: What are they hiding?

Casey Duncan lives in Washington, where she has all but single-handedly raised two amazing children from infancy into adulthood—one recently graduating magna cum laude from WSU-V with a communications degree and the other working full time while transferring the A.A. degree she received while still in high school into a B.S. in Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences at WSU-V.

This post was contributed by a guest author as part of U.S. Donor Conceived Council’s mission to educate on the lived experiences of donor conceived people and their families. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of USDCC.

Top image by via Unsplash