One night, as a child, Holly Hoyle O’Brien woke up in tears.
"My daddy died, I have a sister, we need to find her," she told her parents.
O’Brien, whose birth name was Pok-nam Shin, was born in South Korea. She and her half-sister, Eun-sook, had spent their childhoods in separate orphanages in the country, and were later adopted by different American families.
The siblings didn’t know where the other was for more than 40 years. And the orphanage where O'Brien was adopted had no record of her sister.
"But in my heart, I knew ... she was out there somewhere," O’Brien, now 46, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
She was right.
In a twist of fate that’s been called a "miracle," the sisters were recently reunited after being hired by the same hospital in Florida -- and then assigned to the same floor.
According to O’Brien, the sisters’ incredible story can be traced to one fateful night in the early 1970s: The last time the siblings would see each other for many decades.
O’Brien was just a child then, but she remembers her stepmother gathering her sister in the middle of the night and fleeing the family home.
They never returned.
O’Brien was left in the care of her dad, who she describes as an alcoholic. At the age of 5, she recalls being pulled out of school to identify her father’s body after he'd wandered into the path of an oncoming train.
Four years later, in 1978, O’Brien was adopted from an orphanage by an American couple, who brought her to Virginia. What she didn’t know was that her sister, Eun-sook, had been adopted from another South Korean orphanage two years before, also by an American family.
According to The Associated Press, Eun-sook, now known as Meagan Hughes, grew up in Kingston, New York, about 300 miles from her sister.
Hughes, who is two years younger than O’Brien, says she doesn’t remember much about her childhood in Korea nor how she ended up in the orphanage. She remembers little of her biological mom.
Fast forward four decades or so to March 2015. Hughes started working as a physical therapy assistant on the fourth floor of Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Just two months before, O’Brien got a job at the same facility working as a nursing assistant. She was also assigned to the fourth floor.
"One of the patients told me there was another nurse, named Meagan, who was from Korea. She said you should talk to her, maybe you’re from the same town," O’Brien told the Herald-Tribune.
The women began spending time together, and were stunned to find many similarities in their histories. Increasingly convinced that they might be related, they finally decided to take a DNA test to find out if their suspicions were accurate.
In August, the sisters learned that the match was positive.
"When I heard from Holly, my first reaction was like, 'Oh my god.' I was in shock, I was numb. I have a sister," Hughes told the Herald-Tribune.
Doctors Hospital shared the sisters' story on their Facebook wall on Sunday. "Incredible story about a miracle," the hospital said.
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