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Two of a kind: Beacon Medical Group associates discover new bond

Mary Sharp, left, and Nicole Frantz, are Beacon Medical Group associates who have recently discovered that they are half-sisters.

Through her work in coding at Beacon Medical Group’s Maternal Fetal Medicine office, Nicole Frantz had seen how a genetic counselor often recommended DNA-testing firms to women seeking genetic information to help with their pregnancies.

Frantz in 2016 asked the counselor to recommend a service for her to try. Frantz wasn’t pregnant but she knew that she had been adopted at birth and had always been curious about her biological roots. Did she have any biological siblings out there? If so, might they have any interest in connecting with her?

On the counselor’s advice, and after receiving encouragement from her husband Chad, Frantz ordered a sample collection kit from 23andMe. The company sent her a tube, she spat into it, sent it back, downloaded an app and began receiving notifications of DNA matches.

For nearly five years her matches were only with distant cousins. Frantz had messaged them but none had ever replied.

Pure coincidence

In January 2021, Mary Sharp, an allergy nurse at BMG’s Specialists Fulton Street practice, registered her DNA with 23andMe to help a cousin find relatives on her biological mother’s side of the family.

At the end of a Friday shortly thereafter, as Frantz was preparing to leave BMG’s Professional Coding office where she is now a coding supervisor, she grabbed her phone and saw a 23andMe notification. Like so many times before, the app said that she had “newly added relatives.” She figured they would be more distant cousins who don’t return messages but when she clicked on the notification, she was thrilled to see it read: “Half-sister, 24.30% DNA shared.”

“I instantly started to ugly cry,” Frantz said. “It was like after 37 years of being in the dark, someone had turned on a light. I was so excited that I had a sister!”

Frantz had grown up knowing a sister in her adoptive family, but she was 14 years older than Frantz.

Frantz was further pleased to see that Sharp had adjusted her settings in the app to share her contact information, so Frantz messaged her through the app.

“It was actually pure coincidence,” Sharp said of their 23andMe connection. Her father had told her when she was 16 that he had given up a baby girl for adoption around the time that Sharp was born but she had long given up hope of finding her because at age 23 she had learned that her half-sister’s adoption had been closed, meaning the adoptive family did not want their identities revealed.

For hours later, the pair exchanged messages, then phone numbers, and they continued conversing by text, often and on a daily basis.

They learned that they are only three months apart in age. The 38-year-olds are into crafting and especially love their Cricut machines, which are printer-like devices that craft hobbyists use for printing and cutting. They have daughters around the same ages. Frantz has Abby, 14, while Sharp has Malia, 16, and Aurora, 12.

“It’s almost like we never didn’t know each other,” Frantz said. “We walk the same. We have the same mannerisms. It’s just like talking to myself. It’s so weird.”

Sharp agreed. She had grown up with a half-brother but no sisters.

“It’s kind of odd that we’re so close in age, but it’s nice to have (a sister) that’s my age and on the same wavelength as I am,” Sharp said. “We have a lot of common ground. Our personalities are alike, our work ethic and how we raise our children, which is shocking because we grew up totally different in different environments.”

“Her adoptive mom and dad, I don’t know if you want to call it sheltered but their world revolved around her, where my parents, they were involved but not everything I did was the center of their world,” Sharp said. “My mom was a working mother, she was a nurse. My father, he worked. I met him when I was 7.

“I look at Nicole like she was a little more spoiled than I was. If she was like, ‘I want this,’ her parents were like, ‘Sure, here you go,’ where mine was like, hmm, let’s figure out if this is a good idea for you to have or not have.”

Beacon siblings

In some of their first text conversations, Sharp shared that she was a nurse at an ear, nose and throat practice. Out of curiosity, Frantz typed the beginning of Sharp’s name into Beacon’s Microsoft Outlook address book and it autofilled her full name.

“I sent her a text and asked just to make sure and she confirmed, and that is when I told her I worked for Beacon, too,” Frantz said. “What were the chances that we were both employees of Beacon Medical Group?”

They have had fun thinking about whether their paths ever crossed over the years. They graduated from rival high schools, Sharp from Penn and Frantz from Mishawaka, but they discovered they had a common childhood friend. Sharp’s grandmother lived across the railroad tracks from the Osceola church where Frantz’s adoptive father, John Fisher, was pastor.

They have realized that as the Fulton Street practice was preparing to open in Elkhart, Sharp had visited the Professional Coding office to learn about some coding issues, but she dealt with Frantz’s boss instead of Frantz because Frantz was out on maternity leave at the time.

The pair enjoy shopping, dining out and visiting wineries together. Frantz said it’s hard to remember what life was like before uniting with Sharp.

“We have so many things in common it is crazy and insane to even fathom sometimes,” Frantz said. “Today we still talk all the time like we have known each other our entire lives. Our families have met and our daughters are already becoming close with each other.”

 

 

 

About Jeff Parrott

Parrott is media relations specialist for Beacon Health System. Before taking that role, Parrott worked as a reporter for 25 years at several Indiana and Michigan newspapers. When he isn’t telling the world about Beacon’s incredible associates, he enjoys watching sports, attempting DIY home improvement projects and spending time with his wife and children.