Teo Ma Leong always knew that he and his wife had brought the wrong baby home. But, 29 years ago, the hospital authorities had insisted that there was no mistake.
One day, in 1998, one of Teo Ma Leong's daughters spotted what she described as a younger version of Teo, working in a shopping centre.
After watching from afar for a while, the Teos finally picked up the courage to speak to the young man. His name was Zulhaidi Omar. DNA tests confirmed he was Teo’s son. Four months after the DNA tests, Zulhaidi decided to move in with the Teos.
As it turned out, Zulhaidi had always known he was adopted, and that he was not Malay by birth. "I looked different from my family members and my classmates," he said. "When they found me, I was shocked because I never thought I would find my real parents." Zulhaidi is now 29 years-old and he wants to renounce Islam and take a Chinese name. However, doing that is very difficult in Malaysia, where the Islamic authorities regard abandoning the faith as a grievous sin.
Zuhaidi has led a tough life and since he was 13, he's been on his own. He left his Kampung Low Piak home in Batu Pahat after his mother divorced his drug addict father and remarried several times.
He worked in restaurants, washed cars and took on odd jobs. He barely made RM100 a month, but it was enough for him to get himself through secondary school. He shared a room with friends, and even saved enough over the years to sign up for a part-time diploma course.
For the past 20 years, the Teo's and Xuhandi had been living just miles apart in Batu Pahat.
The family spoke out for the first time yesterday. Teo, 67, said the family was contemplating a lawsuit against the Batu Pahat Hospital for the mix-up which had split and traumatised his family.
At first, he and his wife Lim Sai Hak were not worried by the dark-skinned baby they brought home from the Batu Pahat hospital in 1978. "At the time, I did not see anything amiss. We just took him home," said Teo, a retired mechanic living in Taman Bukit Perdana.
They named him Tian Fa. It was not until a month later, that relatives pointed out that the baby did not look like either parent or anyone else in the family.
"We went back to the hospital to check if there had been a mistake. But the hospital insisted that he was our child," he said. But the doubts never went away. "I never stopped looking for my biological son. Somehow, I knew he was alive and well."