PAINFUL PUZZLER: Grief-stricken parents Carl Tyson and Joy White, pictured in 1987 (above) with an empty crib after their baby, Carlina, was abducted by a fake nurse from Harlem Hospital.
A woman kidnapped as a baby from Harlem Hospital in 1987 -- abducted at 19 days old by a woman who had been lurking around the hospital for weeks wearing a nurse's uniform -- has been found alive and well.
Some 23 years ago, Carlina White was rushed to the emergency room by her parents, who handed her to the woman they thought was a nurse, only to return later and be told that their daughter had vanished.
Carlina exclusively shared with The Post her emotional roller-coaster ride as Nejdra Nance living in Bridgeport, Conn. -- just 45 miles from her birth parents Joy White and Carl Tyson in The Bronx -- to their long-delayed reunion.
She long harbored doubts about the woman she called mom.
The drug-abusing Agnotta Pettway -- who has several aliases, according to Carlina -- often abused her, once pummeling her with a shoe so hard that it left an imprint on her face.
At 16, Carlina got pregnant and asked her "mother" for a birth certificate so she could get prenatal care. Her mother could not provide one.
When she wanted to get a job and a driver's license, her mother could provide no documentation. She also began noticing more and more that she didn't look like her mother.
Carlina confronted the woman, who admitted she wasn't her biological mom.
When Carlina recently moved out on her own to Atlanta, Ga., she was determined to find her real parents and called the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Center investigators showed her a baby photo of a Carlina Renae White from their archives, which she compared to photos of herself as a baby taken by her Connecticut "family." There was no denying it: She was the kidnapped girl.
The center then contacted her birth mother, Joy White.
"We may have found your daughter," Joy White said the caller told her and e-mailed photos.
"I knew right away it was her. I was at work. I screamed and cried and ran downstairs. After that, it was just crazy," said White.
A DNA test confirmed what the woman already knew, and they were reunited in New York last Saturday.
Carlina said seeing her real mother for the first time "felt like a dream."
"When I look at her, I can see me. With that other lady, I would always be searching for stuff we had in common, but I had nothing in common with her," she told The Post.
"I'm so happy. At the same time, it's a funny feeling because everything's brand new. It's like being born again," said the woman, now herself a mom of a 6-year-old daughter, Samani.
Carlina's kidnapping was a case that shocked and riveted New Yorkers.
Her dad and then-16-year-old mom brought her to Harlem Hospital with a 104-degree fever early on the morning of Aug. 4, 1987.
A stocky woman dressed as a nurse comforted her and told her everything would be all right.
"I was suspicious because she didn't have a name tag, but she gave us directions and we were worried about Carlina," Tyson recalled yesterday.
Joy went home to rest for a few hours after Carlina was admitted.
When she returned later that morning, the baby was gone -- and was believed taken by the phony nurse who'd been skulking around the hospital for weeks.
The city offered a $10,000 reward and questioned a Baltimore woman who'd been spotted in the hospital but never made an arrest despite several false leads.
"One time a few months later they though they had found her, but it wasn't her," Tyson said. "That was heartbreaking."
White's family later sued the city and the hospital for negligence, and reportedly received a settlement of $750,000. A portion was placed in a trust for Carlina, and was preserved until her 21st birthday. The fate of that fund was unclear.
As White went on to become a client service specialist for JPMorgan Chase, have two other children -- a son, now 21, and daughter, 18 -- and three grandchildren, she kept the photo of her long-lost daughter on her dresser for the past 23 years and never thought for a second about giving up hope.
Two weeks ago, the family got the miracle they'd been hoping for.
"I'm sitting here and I'm in a daze, thinking, 'Is this for real?' I missed the last 23 years of her life. I have to take it all in, for now just take it day by day," said White.
Carlina's dad, who separated from Joy White years ago and has a family of his own, had contacted the center just a week ago after moving from Jersey City to Queens to routinely report his change of address, unaware of the developments.
"They said they'd been looking for me and that they'd found Carlina," said Tyson, who'd been badly injured in a truck-driving accident in October.
"My mother always told me she could be alive, that whoever took her wanted a child, and that now that she's older she will find you," Tyson said yesterday. "I'm just glad I survived because I got to see my daughter again," he said.
The long-awaited reunion finally took place Saturday at La Guardia Airport, where Carlina's parents and several other relatives and friends greeted her flight from Atlanta.
"When I saw her, my heart just dropped. She said to me 'Dad, don't start crying.' How could I not cry," Tyson said.
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