KINGMAN, AZ - A California woman just wanted to find her birth mother, but during the 40-year journey kept running into roadblocks.
But things changed last month when she found an unexpected surprise in Kingman, Arizona.
Sandra Estes was adopted in Rhode Island at the age of one, but didn't know it until she stumbled upon her certificate of adoption.
She was 14, shocked, confused and looking for answers.
Her adoptive father had abandoned her and her adoptive mother said little, just that her birth mother's name was Mary.
"She tried to discourage me. I think she was afraid I'd be hurt," Estes explained.
So Estes moved on. She became the first female firefighter in San Diego.
But when her adoptive mother died in 1999 she felt alone and started searching again.
"I had written a lot of letters to Rhode Island where I was born, trying to get my birth certificate, but they wouldn't unseal it," Estes said.
That certificate held the key and for more than 10 years she kept checking.
Finally, last year, Rhode Island unsealed adoption records.
Estes got her mother's full name and went on Ancestry.com and found her mom had died but a sister was nearby, in Kingman, Arizona.
Sandra was scared to call but it turns out she didn't need to be.
"She says, ‘I've been looking for you all my life,'" Estes recalled her sister saying.
She and her older sister, who goes by the name Jo, bonded instantly. Sandra's middle name is Jo.
She visited her sister last month.
"It just felt so good to hug her and just to think this is my real sister, my wish has come true," Estes said.