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Thanks to a mom's detailed memory and a nagging suspicion that her baby was swapped at birth, she's finally been reunited with her lost son.
Mercedes Casanellas, a Salvadoran woman, returned to her own birth country (and the place where she met her husband) to give birth to a baby boy at an exclusive private hospital in El Salvador's capital, San Salvador, on May 21. But before Casanellas and her British husband Richard Cushworth returned home to Dallas after the birth, they had a bad feeling that the baby they left the hospital with might not actually be theirs.
Although she didn't think much of the doctor paying very close attention to her during her pregnancy, she now believes that he intended to swap her baby all along. Around the fifth month of her pregnancy, she told UK and Salvadoran media outlets that Dr. Alejandro Guidos repeatedly told her that her baby would be dark-skinned even though his father was white. Casanellas found the doctor's repetition of this strange, as there's no way to tell skin color from only seeing ultrasounds, and both she and her husband are light-skinned.
The doctor also reportedly told Casanellas that she needed an emergency C-section five weeks before her original June due date. The healthy baby boy that she took photos of at birth was light-skinned and resembled her husband, but the baby she was later given to take home had much darker skin than either Casanellas or her husband.
In a photo of her baby following the birth, the child's umbilical cord has a yellow clip clamping the cord; when hospital staff brought the baby back to Casanellas later, the baby she was handed had a white clip on his umbilical cord. That was only the first of many red flags that made her worry that she'd been given the wrong baby.
Casanellas told the Mail Online that she also had her baby's footprints taken for the birth certificate immediately following the birth. When she later went back to amend the birth certificate to fix a mistake, she noticed the footprints on the certificate were smaller and a different pattern than those of the baby she'd brought home.
Once back home in Dallas, family and friends also noticed the child had much darker skin than either of the parents and that he didn't resemble them at all, either. Casanellas told reporters later that although she breastfed and cared for the baby as her own, her mother's intuition kept telling her the baby they brought home to Dallas was not really her son.
"I have a beautiful baby at home," Casanellas told reporters in El Salvador, before they returned to the country where their son was born to try to find him. "It's not mine and maybe there's another mother suffering the same as I am and perhaps I have her baby."
Three months after the couple's son was born, they performed a DNA test on the baby they brought home, only to have their worries confirmed that the baby was not genetically theirs. They returned to El Salvador and had DNA tests performed on all baby boys that had been born at the hospital on the same day as their son. The couple's real son was located last week and returned to them.
Casanellas and her husband suspect the doctor was involved in a human trafficking ring and that their light-skinned baby was deliberately swapped to sell to child traffickers.
Dr. Alejandro Guidos, who was involved in the birth, was arrested last week as well on charges that he led a trafficking gang he ran from the hospital, and appeared in court where Casanellas confronted him. A prosecutor said the babies had been accidentally mixed up, and although the doctor has been released from jail, he is now part of a criminal investigation by the country's attorney general. The hospital where the babies were born has also launched an internal investigation.