South Florida

Tragedy & Triumph: A Family Reunion Decades in the Making Follows Years of Resilience

A South Florida firefighter, paralyzed in a tragic skimboarding incident, and his sister on Friday met a brother they never knew they had. The long-lost brother's adoption was kept secret for decades.

Derek Alivez, a husband and father of three who in Hollywood Beach sustained a spinal cord injury in 2010, fought his way to recover from the debilitating day he lost the use of his legs.

That never stopped him. After months of physical therapy, he returned to the force to serve on light duty and has since been an example of determination.

This family has faced tough times, but it seems resilience is in their DNA. After four-and-a-half years of failed fertility treatments, Julianna Guevara – Alivez's sister – and her husband received the news for which they had been waiting – she was pregnant.

However, about five months into her pregnancy she was diagnosed with leukemia.

But like her brother, she never gave up.

"My brother and I ... we both have had our battles these past several years, but we all came out swinging and our faith and family are really strong," Guevara said. "I gave birth on July 11, 2017. She is perfectly healthy in every single way. She's my little miracle, so we have a lot of miracles in this family."

One week before celebrating Christmas this past year, the family who has passed life's trials had another unexpected life turn – they found out their family was more numerous than they knew.

Guevara's mom gave her a letter with the news.

"I get done with the letter and I was like ... 'Do I have a brother?' And she's like 'Yes!' – 'Are you kidding me?'" Guevara recounted.

Lance Beresford met his biological mother, brother and sister for the first time at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport.

"I'm just very overwhelmed, actually. I don't know what to feel," Beresford said.

Beresford, a married man who lives in Iowa with three kids, including one he adopted from Taiwan, had one word to describe his family reunion.

"Wow! Wow! That's all I can say, is wow!" Beresford said.

Another surprise that the family recently learned? Beresford is an occupational therapist – one who specializes in injuries similar to his brother's.

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