Rachel Burch, an operating department practitioner at St Richard’s in Chichester, appeared on the latest episode of ITV’s Long Lost Family, after contacting the show to help find her birth father.
The 50-year-old grew up in a predominantly white family with no memory of her father, originally from Jamaica, who left when she was 18 months old.
When she was five, Rachel along with her mum and former stepdad moved to West Sussex from Wolverhampton.
Rachel said leaving ethnically diverse Wolverhampton for a small village with a predominantly white community proved to be a culture shock.
It is here she recalls experiencing bullying as a child due to the colour of her skin.In her younger years, Rachel tried to find her birth father but pre-internet this proved difficult, especially as she didn’t know his name.
Rachel’s mother would not divulge her father’s name until ten years ago when Rachel and her husband Clive were exploring the possibility of adopting or fostering. Her mum then gave her the name of her dad to put on a form.
But it wasn’t until the pandemic, when Rachel, who has three stepchildren and five grandchildren, worked on the frontline, that she began to think about her own family even more.
Rachel began her career in the NHS 27 years ago in the domestic team at St Richard’s and after encouragement from a former director, pursued working in care. After first becoming a healthcare assistant in theatres, Rachel qualified in 2000 as an operating department practitioner and never looked back.
“I had been thinking about family a lot during Covid, patients didn’t have their family with them, and I was thinking I didn’t even know half of my family,” she said.
Confiding in her colleague one night shift during lockdown, Rachel admitted she wanted to find her birth father and was encouraged to fill out a form for Long Lost Family.
“I wanted to know my roots, find out a bit more about my heritage and who I looked like,” she said.
“I didn’t have any preconceived idea that everything would be perfect, I just wanted to know anything.”
Researchers on the show discovered her birth father had died 20 years ago in Liverpool at the age of 52.
But using Rachel’s DNA, the specialist researchers began searching for other family members and found her half-sister.
Sian, 28, who is also mixed race, is a mother of three and lives in The Wirral. Similar to Rachel’s story, Sian wasn’t raised by her birth father but knew his name. When she tried to find him later in her life, he had already passed away and she didn’t discover she had a half-sister.
Rachel, who was delivered the news by Davina McCall, said: “Finding out was just amazing. I hated being an only child and always wanted a sister. Meeting was very emotional and just lovely.
“We’ve got similarities in our personalities and mannerisms which is really weird. Even just really odd things like we both like the same perfume and everybody tells me that I am the spitting image of Sian’s middle son! It’s nice to know I’m not an only child because I’ve always wanted a sister and now, I have a little one.”
Since first meeting, the pair have kept in regular contact and have seen one another several times since filming and even have plans this summer.
As well as finding her sister, Rachel was also informed she had a paternal great-aunt who lives in the United States, and the sisters plan to find out more about their birth father together.