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Radio review: When the gift of simple DNA kit can turn a family upside down

Episode three of BBC Radio 4's The Gift revealed the bizarre and horrifying story of what was supposed to be some family fun with a DNA kit
Episode three of BBC Radio 4's The Gift revealed the bizarre and horrifying story of what was supposed to be some family fun with a DNA kit Episode three of BBC Radio 4's The Gift revealed the bizarre and horrifying story of what was supposed to be some family fun with a DNA kit

The Gift, Radio 4

What do you buy someone who has everything?

The answer is sometimes a DNA kit – it’s been having a moment – a go-to gift that will mesmerize, amaze and even puzzle you.

It’s a little family fun. All you do is spit into a tube and send it off to find out about your heritage and possible health conditions in the genes.

We’re still musing over one Red Mick McCann – an infamous ancestor.

But that DNA kit gift can be a Pandora’s Box and this is where the woman behind this series, Jenny Kleeman, comes in.

She meets the men and women whose lives have been changed forever.

Episode three, Mistakes, was about a big one.

Donna Johnson took advantage of a special offer to buy four kits – for herself, her husband, their two sons. It seemed like a fun family thing to do.

But the results revealed that Donna’s husband, Vanner, had no genetic connection to their second son, Tim.

He was not his biological father.

He had been born using IVF as the couple struggled to have a second baby.

They noticed that he was a very different baby to their eldest boy – but put him in front of a ball game and he was very calm. He loved sport.

It’s a chilling story. Vanner decided he needed to be clear with Tim and took him for a drive, telling him that he had been born via IVF and that Vanner was not his actual biological dad.

Tim, who had been fiddling with his phone, looked up and said: “It doesn’t matter, You’re still my dad.”

You could feel Vanner’s relief flooding from the radio.

What happened next was a long search to try to find out what had happened – a search that eventually led to Devin and Kelly McNeil who had IVF at the same clinic as the Johnsons.

DNA showed Devin was Tim’s biological father. There had been some kind of a mistake.

It was never simple – what happened had a cataclysmic effect on so many lives - but they found a way to meet and connect and, in the most difficult of circumstances, they forged a friendship.

It was a bizarre and horrifying story but one that was uplifting despite everything.

You may find this cures you of any DNA kit itch.