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Rebecca Blackwell and her 15-year-old son Tyler were curious about his sperm donor father, whose identity had been anonymous since the moment of conception. Through good detective work, they were eventually able to find "John" three years ago.

What they didn't expect to learn was that Tyler had inherited his father's medical condition -- a rare aortic heart defect that could have killed him at any moment.

Tyler's father never responded to their letter to make contact, but just last year, John's sister found the Blackwells online building on family tree and immediately told them that John had nearly died when his aorta ruptured at the age of 43, and two brothers and Tyler's grandmother had the genetic disorder.

John, who has a family history of the connective tissue disorder Marfan's syndrome as well as the genetic heart defect, had never notified any of the three sperm banks where he had fathered at least 24 children -- 50 percent of whom could be affected.

"Tyler had a time bomb ticking in his chest," said Blackwell, a 59-year-old special education teacher...