Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is rural lack of anonymity part of this story?

The rural angle of this New York Times story goes unexpressed, but it's in there nevertheless in this tale out of Heppner Oregon, population 1,395. Two 56-year-old-women were switched at birth in the tiny hospital in this town in eastern Oregon. Of course, that could happen anywhere--though it is much less likely these days given the precautions now taken at hospitals. The rural story here, I think, is in the lack of anonymity that led to the women discovering the switch. Here's an excerpt about that:

Both women were born on May 3, 1953, the only births that day in tiny Pioneer Memorial Hospital in rural Heppner, Ore. Both grew up happily, got married, raised children and now have grandchildren.

Then, last summer, say friends and family members, an elderly woman who knew the families of both women long ago made a call to [one of the women's] brother. The woman, who has not been identified, had news she felt she had to share as her life neared its end and the younger women’s parents had already died.
It is the source of this woman's knowledge that suggests a rural lack of anonymity. How curious that the woman who kept this secret--perhaps a nurse at the hospital, perhaps a towns-person who saw the family resemblances (or lack thereof)--came forward only so many years on, after the women could meet their biological parents.

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