Managing Sisterhood

Two members of the Boone Health family discover a deeper connection.

There’s a saying that “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” But if you can’t see other flowers in the garden for the weeds, you’ll have to start pulling.

Just ask Brandi Chick and Holly Wheatley. Brandi has two half-brothers, but she had been trying to find out about her biological father throughout her adult life. Supporting that wish, Brandi’s husband gave her a DNA genetic test kit from 23andMe for Christmas in 2019. She followed the instructions and sent off her saliva for testing.

Meanwhile, a younger woman was also searching for family, looking for information about her medical history. She, too, submitted a test to 23andMe and found a match with Brandi who, it seems, shared the same father. But they still didn’t know who that father was.

Brandi Chick and Holly Wheatley

Brandi’s newly discovered sister had a half-sister, not related to any other sisters in this story, who was an avid family history researcher. Brandi took a second DNA test, this one through Digging deeper, the unrelated sister discovered a family with the surname “Woodward.” They traced the family from the great-grandparents to the grandparents and determined their father was one of two brothers. They were closing in.

Brandi and her newly found sister started messaging promising Woodwards via Facebook in 2020.

“It was kind of a fluke because we weren’t certain,” Brandi says. “We were just throwing it out there to see if any of them knew about us.”

Then, there’s Holly, who grew up with three sisters. One shares the same mom and dad, and the other two are half-sisters. All four have the same dad. They are Woodwards, which made them messaging targets for Brandi and her younger sister.

“On a random Saturday afternoon, I get a Facebook message from the two of them saying, ‘Hey, we think we’re your sisters.’ And they narrowed it down to either my father or his brother. They asked if I would be willing to do the 23andMe to confirm. I did it and confirmed that we are sisters,” Holly says.

In case you have lost count, that’s six Woodward sisters. But Brandi and Holly finding one another isn’t just one of those small-world stories. All six, it seems, grew up in the mid-Missouri area. The youngest sister, who Brandi first connected with, grew up next door to her dad’s brother and went to school with kids she didn’t know were her cousins.

“How none of us sisters ever crossed paths growing up or as adults is amazing,” Brandi says.

What makes that fact remarkable is that Brandi and Holly share more than just a biological father. They share Boone Health in an extremely similar way.

Brandi is the practice manager for Boone Health Primary Care-Broadway and Holly is the practice manager for Boone Health Medical Group Specialties.

“The thing that I keep honing in on is that Brandi has been a practice manager at Boone for years,” Holly says. “All these years, we’re in the same profession. We’re sisters. And we never knew each other existed.”

Keep in mind that Brandi was searching for family. But Holly wasn’t even aware that she needed to.

“I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen, staring at my phone, trying to process this,” Holly says. “And I tell my husband, ‘I just got this message. Are you kidding?’ I remember talking to my other sisters and they were not as accepting in the beginning. But I was always on board. I have always been one who wants to know about family history. I didn’t think twice about it. I was excited.”

“I have been trying to find my paternal side for my entire life,” Brandi says. “I’ve been wrapped up in this since I was 18. So, I would tell everyone to do it. Absolutely do it. Aside from having my children, it was the best thing I think that’s ever happened to me.”

Maybe it’s because their youngest kids started hanging out together as soon as they found out they were cousins, and their families gather for family game nights. Maybe it’s that they share a profession and work for the same healthcare provider or that they live only miles apart. Maybe it’s that Holly has introduced Brandi to the Woodward family and reconnected with them herself. Maybe it’s because they have talked to each other nearly every day since they found out they’re sisters. Whatever the reasons, Brandi and Holly have established an incredibly tight bond, even though Holly has always had other sisters.

“All I wanted my whole life was to have that sister that I could talk to, relate with, spend time with. And now, in my 40s, I finally have that person,” Holly says.

So, there’s a garden with six different flowers growing in it. Now that the weeds have been cleared, they can finally see each other. But two, it would seem, are rooted more closely than either could have imagined.

By Michelle Terhune