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By Lauren Victory (levictory@cbs.com)

CHICAGO (CBS) — A heartwarming yet bittersweet story this holiday season of a reunion decades in the making.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains the potentially life-threatening message an Illinois mother needed to deliver to the daughter she gave up for adoption.

Donna McCoy worked in a critical care unit for many years, has received awards for her compassion, and helped create new hospital policies.

“I told my parents I was going to go nursing school. I had talked about it since I was 7 years old,” she said.

At 20, McCoy fulfilled that dream; one of her proudest moments after one of her hardest.

“I got to see her the morning after my delivery, and hold her for a short time then,” McCoy said.

An embrace the nurse and downstate Illinois mom searched for for decades; hiring a detective, scouring the internet, and more for the daughter she gave up for adoption.

Then came devastating news. In 2018, McCoy was positively diagnosed for Huntington’s disease, an inherited genetic disorder. Often described as having ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s at the same time, it’s ultimately fatal, and there is no cure.

Her thoughts went to the child she never met.

“That’s when I had to step up my game and do the DNA,” she said.

A saliva sample submitted to ancenstry.com popped up as a match in Jillian Keil’s inbox.

“Was very surprised, was not expecting that at all, and I was really floored,” Keil said.

“Looks like we finally found each other,” her biological mom wrote, later sharing her diagnosis.

“That was a hard blow to give her,” McCoy said.

“As soon as she said it, I knew what that meant, and yeah, I said, ‘Well I won’t know until I know. So I need to get tested,” Keil said.

Huntington’s disease is caused by a mistake in a person’s DNA code; a mistake Keil learned she was spared.

Relieved, both mom and daughter reunited.

Together they’re raising awareness about Huntington’s disease testing.

How does finally finding her daughter help McCoy?

“I have this deep inner peace; the sense of everything’s okay,” she said.

Wedding bells in the future mean another chance to be with her long-lost family; a life shortened by disease, but also “it’s complete now,” McCoy said.

Clinical trials for a drug to treat Huntington’s disease began a few weeks ago.

Around 12,000 people in Illinois are living with or at risk for Huntington’s disease, according to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

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