Two women, 23, tell how they were swapped at birth in hospital mix-up

Two women, 23, who were swapped at birth in a Sicilian hospital reveal how their mothers moved into the same house and raised them as SISTERS from the age of 3 after discovering the mix up

  • Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, 23, were mixed up at birth in Sicily, Italy
  • Pair were accidentally swapped by nurses who were welcoming in the New Year
  • It was only aged three mistake was discovered after DNA test proved 
  • Biological mothers swapped children but maintained a very close friendship 
  • They chose to bring the girls up together and even moved into the same house  

Two women who were accidentally swapped at birth and brought up as sisters by their families have detailed their unique journey in an upcoming book and film. 

A hospital mix up in Mazara del Vallo in Sicily meant that Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, both 23, were raised by the wrong mothers. 

It was only when they were aged three that the mistake was discovered when Marinella Alagna, 51, was picking up her daughter Melissa from nursery school when she noticed the striking similarity between one of the other children, Caterina, and her two daughters.

The families learned the truth after taking a DNA but because so much time had passed, their biological mothers Marinella and Gisella Fodera, 47, chose to bring them up together.

They even went so far as even moving into the same house in a bid to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. 

Mauro Caporiccio, author of Sisters Forever, the film created by Italy’s RAI TV that will be broadcast this week, told The Times: ‘Today they are more like twins than sisters and there is a kind of love which binds the two families.’ 

A hospital mix up in Mazara del Vallo in Sicily meant that Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera (pictured, as children), both 23, were raised by the wrong mothers

It was only when the sisters were aged three that the mix up was discovered, but so much time had passed, their biological mothers chose to bring them up together and even went so far as moving into the same house (Pictured, left Caterina Alagna and right, Melissa Fodera)

Caterina and Melissa were born just 15 minutes apart in the same hospital on December 31, 1998, but were accidentally swapped by nurses who were welcoming in the New Year. 

Despite their concerned mothers noting to staff that the baby they were holding was wearing clothes that they did not recognise, their doubts were cast aside when nurses reassured them it was just the outfits that had been mixed up. 

After three years,  Marinella saw Caterina at nursery and saw her incredible likeness to her daughter Melissa. 

Marinella said: ‘I recognised Caterina’s mother, Gisella Fodera, from the maternity ward and got suspicious — 15 days later we did DNA tests and my mind went blank.

Caterina was being raised by Gisella Fodera when her biological mother Marinella, 51, spotted her at the school gates (pictured, Caterina now) 

‘It was too surreal, too impossible.’

Initially, the mothers were against the idea of trading back children, with Gisella highlighting the difficulty of raising a daughter for three years and then being told to hand her back – all because of a ‘simple mistake.’   

However, both mothers came to an agreement that it was best to gradually make the switch.  

To ease the girls in, Melissa and Caterina spent time with both parents. At one point, both families were even living under the same roof.

When both mothers came to an agreement that it was best to gradually make the switch, Melissa (pictured) and Caterina spent time with both parents

But the hardest part was yet to come. Experts recommended that the families both spend a minimum of six months apart to give the girls the opportunity to adjust to their biological families and new lifestyle. 

‘We two mothers cried on the phone to each other each day and after three months decided we couldn’t resist, and we met and promised never to separate,’ explained Marinella.

‘After that I saw Melissa every day — how could I not? I breastfed her, I taught her her first words. We had to share everything.’ 

Over time, both families grew closer and the girls began to celebrate big occasions together, as well as sitting next to each other in school. 

Caterina (left) and Melissa (right) were born just 15 minutes apart in the same hospital on December 31, 1998, but were accidentally swapped by nurses who were welcoming in the New Year

Melissa (pictured) has no recollection of her life before the age of three – adding that she has and will always see Marinella as a ‘second mother’

However, it wasn’t until the girls were aged eight and old enough to understand the mix-up that they learned they were actually swapped at birth. 

But Melissa went on to say how she has no recollection of her life before the age of three – adding that she has and will always see Marinella as a ‘second mother.’ 

While Gisella also admitted that she and Melissa feel like true mother and daughter today, there was one issue the girls have not yet been able to overcome – their registered names. 

To make matters easier, they decided to keep the names they had always used. 

The story will feature in book Sisters Forever, by Mauro Caporiccio, and the film created by Italy’s RAI TV, which will air later this week.

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