Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Unburdener

The other day, I pulled off my bookshelf one of the many "parents of kids with special needs" books that I purchased years ago but never read.  The forward to the book was written by a pediatric geneticist.  He talked about how the role he has come to play for many of his parents is that of an "Unburdener" - someone who is there for the parent "to talk to, or, more accurately, to talk at, someone who won't criticize, or answer back or feel guilty."

I like that term -- an "Unburdener".  I understand exactly what he means and how important it is as the parent of a child with a chronic medical condition that can't be fixed, to have someone in your life who is willing to act as an Unburdener.  I've been fortunate to have several of Jack's doctors act as an Unburdener and I can say, without a doubt, that my sanity the first few years of this journey was saved because of these doctors.  I needed to know that there were doctors out there who truly cared about Jack and this crappy hand we had been dealt.  I talked "at" these doctors relentlessly. They were - and continue to be -  accessible, patient, compassionate and responsive, without judgment or the need to come up with an answer.  They simply listen.  Twelve years into this journey, my need to be "unburdened" isn't nearly as great as it was in the beginning of this journey.  However, there are still those times when I just need to talk "at" someone.

After reading about the physician's role as an Unburdener, I sent an email to the one doctor of Jack's who has been my primary Unburdener over the years, to thank him for all he's done and to remind him to never underestimate the profound difference he makes in the lives of parents like myself who he so unselfishly serves as an Unburdener.  His response says it all:

You are proof positive that physicians should not be afraid to allow families to contact them by email or phone - it is such a small 'sacrifice' compared to what the families are going through.  You have never ever been a 'burden' and it's only been a delight to play a small part in your journey.

We need more Unburdeners - and doctors -- like him in the world.

Who has been an Unburdener for you?


worthy said...

What a wonderful doctor Ann! Unfortunately our doctors in the uk are not so approachable so I have to fall back on my online friends to unburden. without the trach board I think I would have completely cracked up. So thanks Ann, for being my Unburdener! xx

Christy said...

Great post, Ann. I feel lucky to have two doctors like that - Harlie's cardiologist and her ENT. When I e-mail them, I get a response within minutes. They are awesome and I love them! I love your note to that doc saying that he made a "profound difference". I am totally stealing that.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful reminder of the importance of a good doctor in your child's life! I'm in the middle of a project with a letter I sent our special makes all the difference in the world when they listen and care.
As always, I hope sweet Jack is doing well!

Lisa said...

I love doctors like him/her.
We have one and I still have a personal letter she wrote to me in Gage's memory box.