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Swap babies playing together like sisters; MIX-UP TODDLERS MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THIS is the moment when hospital swap toddlers Callie Johnson and Rebecca Chittum met for the first time.

Blissfully unaware of the blunder which threatened to wreck their lives, the three year olds played together on a lawn and in a swimming pool at a secret location.

And, as our pictures show, they got on like a house on fire.

The children were given to the wrong couples at birth but the mix-up was only discovered last month.

Now, in a victory for common sense, the tots' families have vowed NOT to launch custody proceedings and plan to bring them up "as sisters".

At the weekend dozens of relatives gathered for the emotional get-together. It was the moment Rebecca's real mum Paula Johnson, 30, saw her daughter for the first time.

She said: "I can't describe it. I tried not to cry, seeing them together. It was really hard.

"I didn't want to push her. I didn't want to scare her."

Mark Chittum, who until last month thought Rebecca was his granddaughter, added: "Everything is going fine as far as the children are concerned.

"And everything is going fine as far as the families are concerned."

Paula, of Ruckersville, Virginia, discovered that blonde blue-eyed Callie was not her biological daughter after DNA tests for a paternity case.

A hospital investigation revealed she had been given the daughter of Kevin Chittum, 25, and Tamara Rodgers, 19, who was born on the same day.

Kevin and Tamara, who lived 75 miles from Paula, were killed in a car crash on July 4 and Rebecca is now being brought up by relatives.

The tots do not yet know of the mistake which caused headlines around the world.

Charlottesville hospital in Virginia, USA, claims the switch could not have been an accident but pledged to improve security in full-page newspaper ads last week.

However, the devastated families plan to take legal action. Paula's lawyer Cynthia Johnson said: "Unless the hospital offers a financial settlement we plan to sue."
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Author:Foreign, MARK DOWDNEY
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 19, 1998
Words:334
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