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Old 11-01-2010, 03:57 PM   #1
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need help with an unusual relationship issue

Hi there,

I'll start out with my story and and then pose my question at the end....

I work in a hospital where I get the priviledge of taking care of medically ill babies and children. Approximately 15 years ago I started taking care of an extremely fragile baby boy with multiple life threatening issues. He was so sick that he spent probably the first year of his life with us. During this time his mother wasn't around that much. I spent many hours at his bedside administering supportive care and sometimes emergency care. When things were going better for him I would spend all of my extra time playing with him and rocking him. We bonded more strongly than I ever have with any of my other patients. Over the first few years of his life he was an inpatient much of the time. I continued caring for him very frequently for the first several years of his life.... Then thankfully he steadily improved and his visits became less and less. But I would still probably see him once or twice a year.

A few years have now passed, but he is in again, my little friend, and our bond is still just as strong. In fact, I could probably easily have adopted him, that's how I feel about him. I care about him like he is my own family, my own child. I care about his well being and his future. I miss him and wonder how he's doing.

Anyway, this brings me to my question. He asked me for my e-mail address and my cell phone number. I did give him my email and the first day I gave it to him he has sent me a little note with some recent pictures of him. I don't want to worry but I want to be careful, being that he is a minor and I am an adult woman. I don't want in any way for anyone to misconstrue any communication between the two of us from more that it is, as people have a way of reading into things these days.

I very much want to keep in touch but I don't know how I should proceed.
I was thinking I should just keep my emails short and respond only if he has first emailed me. He ended his email to me with "love ya" it was so sweet it melted my heart, but I was thinking I should be wise and not respond the same way, because of the way times are these days. As for his mom, I think she has had a lot of issues but she is pulling her life together. She has always been warm toward me and given me school pictures of him and such. I think she knows me well enough to know of my integrity and that I just simply care about her son, I don't think she would mind if I contacted him.
Again, when he was in she wasn't there because she was working so I had no way to really ask her or mention to her I might drop her kid a line once in awhile, but I don't honestly think she would mind. He is discharged now so I may not see him for quite awhile, or her, to ask her.

Any thoughts, advice, experiences of your own that you would like to share with me would be greatly appreciated. May be I'm just being a worry wart over nothing?... What do you think? I just don't want to borrow trouble and so am asking for your thoughts on the matter... I would like to keep in contact with him but my question is how? What would be the best way to keep in touch, offer advice, encouragement, support to a nearly 16 year old youngster that I have carried in my heart all of these years and whom I still care about to this day?

Last edited by alpinemeadow; 11-01-2010 at 04:09 PM.

 
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Old 11-01-2010, 05:16 PM   #2
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

I don't think I should try and read between the lines for any romantic feelings you might secretly entertain for this young man. No, I just think that you have for him a genuine almost parental kind of love. Like a mentor. So, if this is the case, there is nothing to worry about.

I would say, however, that the ball in in his court. You don't have a lot to do with regards to him, except welcome him whenever he reaches out for you, give him advice if he asks you for some, encourage him if he shares with you that he is in trouble or in fear, congratulate him on special dates in his life if he chooses to include you in those events.

Young people are very changeable and often selfish, so you should not expect from him a steady connection with you and a permanent interest in you and in the things you are doing. Yet, from the description you give of him, he comes out as a thoughtful young man, so there may be hope that the two of you will remain in contact.

Be there for him but never be forceful and intrusive in his life. I already think you are doing the right thing in being careful with everything you do and say, so as to not sound ambiguous. But don't overdo that either. Don't be so serious and stern and defensive all the time. Also allow some fun and playfulness between the two of you now and then, so you won't come across as "boring".

Last edited by pendulum; 11-01-2010 at 05:17 PM.

 
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:17 PM   #3
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

I would consider asking his mom for her advice. Tell her that you think of him like family. I can tell that you care for him. I think his mother sees this and is grateful, but may not be able to put it into words.

wb

 
Old 11-01-2010, 07:27 PM   #4
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

you seem to be worrying too much honey. understand why but i am sure everything will be okay. i agree with previous post just try talk to her ask for her number via him.

 
Old 11-01-2010, 08:02 PM   #5
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Hello again my friend! I think it is wonderful that you have such a warm bond with this young man, and I encourage you to continue to answer his emails and keep up with him as long as possible.

I think a nice call or a note to his mother explaining your intentions, which I imagine she already understands to be just what it is ... a major caregiver to her son when they both needed all the help they could get. As a mother, who sounds as it she has her hands very full, any chance for continued support and friendship from a safe and positive role model like yourself, would likely be very well received.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to keep a positive relationship with a teenage guy. In fact, I have a similar type relationship between my 16 year old sons 2nd grade teacher, him and myself. I have always been the single parent of a highly gifted son, who's intelligence popped up at an early age, before testing was performed on all students. Like many smart kids, behavior problems often appear when the child is bored with the school works pace, and often find creative ways to disrupt the class and rattle the teachers. He was eventually assigned an aide who's specialty was special education. This woman and my son hit it off, and she spent so much time with her everyday. She was always looking for creative ways to keep his mind busy and out of the teachers hair. One thing that they especially enjoyed was playing Scrabble, and when my son started beating her...it was on!

Years passed, and my son went on to junior high and is now in 11 th grade. They are still playing! They will meet up at Starbucks with their board and play together about once a month. (He started beating her steadily by 6th grade).

I have accepted this relationship as a very special one for both of them. We always remember her at Christmas, she attends his sporting events at school, and other activities. She is a very special teacher and friend who I admire and appreciate for taking the valuable time she has to spare...just to drive 40 miles one way for a few games of Scrabble with a teenager!

I see your relationship something like this one I have, and I know I would certainly appreciate all the time and attention she chooses to share with my son. Being a singe mother, sometimes we need a little help.. and if you can offer this young man a little of your time by sending a positive message to him via email, or encourage him with his grades and school work..perhaps attend a school event he is participating in, drop him a birthday or holiday card...those kind of things can make all the difference when shared with the right person at the right time.

I think that our times call for more of a commitment to our children, as they are exposed to so much "reality" that as adults, we need to fill in the gaps with real conversation between us and them...whether those adults happen to be our parents, our teachers, our neighbors, and any other relationships that we have found over our lives that fit just right.

I know I have made it a point to thank my son's friend and mentor many times...but I do appreciate her help and I imagine this young mans mother feels much like me. Assure her you will follow any guidelines you have, and I'll bet she will accept your friendship with open arms.

I wish you well...Janet

 
Old 11-01-2010, 09:10 PM   #6
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Thank you all,

All of your responses have been so thoughtful. I actually feel very shy about writing about some of my concerns and everyone of you has been helpful and supportive. I am so glad I did this because I can see now through all of your eyes that I have overbaked my concerns. I really want to be able to reach out to my young friend and also to be available to him if he wants to reach out to me, but in this day and age you never know when such a relationship is going to cause some people to raise their eyebrows and wonder what you are up to. I really did feel like I got clear guidance on how to proceed and I definitely will be in contact with his mother. I will have to email him and ask for her phone number and then I will give her a call. I'm a little nervous about talking to her, I haven't seen her in years but she should remember me well. The little bit of nervousness I feel I will just have to overcome because he does mean so much to me it'll be worth it. I feel so happy about this, I can't tell you how much.

From the hour I spent with him after my shift was over I could tell he wants me to be in his life, too. It was actually he that initiated getting my email address and he told me he would like to come to the hospital not as a patient but just to visit me. Like Pendulum said the ball is in his court, he passed it to me first so now I can respond. For now I will just keep passing the ball back to him and we will see what happens.

I left a lot out of my original post due to time issues. Other things I would like to mention is that he is also a gifted child with gigantic medical issues, so much so that he was not expected to live to see 3, (now he's nearly 16!) That coupled with a complicated home situation I believe overwhelmed him and he did have some pretty intense psychiatric issues when he was say 10 to 12 years old. I can't really go into details about that but he seems to be okay now, he seems happy, he says things at home are better, and he is already pursuing what he needs to do to get a good education. I know all of that could change based on his young age, but it seems he is heading in the right direction. If he were to have any kind of relapse into his psych issues, it might change my being able to contact him. I guess I'll cross that bridge if and when it happens.

Writeleft, your experiences with your son and his teacher were very encouraging to me. Hopefully his mom will feel the same way about me as you felt about your son's teacher.

If anyone has any idea of any openers I could use when making that first call, that would be great. I won't ask for an entire scripting of our first conversation so you all lucked out there, but like I said before I am quite shy and don't quite know how to go about talking to her or asking her if I could contact her son. It will take some guts even just to dial the number.

Thank you all! You guys are awesome.

 
Old 11-01-2010, 10:36 PM   #7
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

its up to you but if you feel still feel concerned after maybe save all the emails between you and him so if anyone gets funny about it you can show proof that you just genuinely care for this child and not some wierdo. i understand what you mean though too many people are far too quick to judge these days and people talk. but yeah i think talking to him and her would be good. maybe come close friends with mom too invite over for lunch. just ideas :-) i wish you all the luck you sound a lovely person xxx

 
Old 11-02-2010, 03:43 AM   #8
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

If I may say something further...

I am not sure if you should call his mother and then ask her permission to contact her son. I understand you want transparency in your relationship with him, but I also think that asking for her permission could be embarrassing for both of you.

If anything, this could be done indirectly. It is up to him to tell his mother that you are in contact - I guess he has already done so - and if he hasn't done yet, you could encourage him to do so. Or in your emails, ask him about his mother, etc...

Try to keep things as simple as possible.

You know, teenagers like to think they are independent and that they have the right to choose their own ways. By asking his mother for a permission to contact him, you will be somehow questioning his independence and you might even hurt his feelings and his pride.

Last edited by pendulum; 11-02-2010 at 03:43 AM.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 04:53 AM   #9
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

I have a 16 year old son and if it was my son in that situation I would want to know. Based on what you've put here I wouldn't be worried but I'd still like to know that there was contact. He is still a minor and his mum is ultimately responsible for him.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 05:08 AM   #10
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

I missed how old this boy is?? I commend your thoughtfulness and caring of this person. However; I advise saving all emails and having no phone conversations that are not recorded.

Today's society is driven by money and people suing opne another. Just keep your butt covered.

Make sure that there are no off color jokes or 'harmless' flirting. He could very well have serious feelings for YOU if he is a teen-ager. THIS can come back to haunt you later.

Be careful.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 07:37 AM   #11
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Do you have any ethical rules in your field of work pertaining to patient contact outside of the care setting? I would think that this type of contact is discouraged. I know it would be frowned upon for a doctor to maintain email correspondence with a patient unrelated to medical care, and even more so where the patient is a minor. As much as that sucks--because you truly sound like a wonderful person who cares for this child--I would think that it's part of your job to draw the line between personal and professional.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 08:45 AM   #12
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by caberg View Post
Do you have any ethical rules in your field of work pertaining to patient contact outside of the care setting? I would think that this type of contact is discouraged. I know it would be frowned upon for a doctor to maintain email correspondence with a patient unrelated to medical care, and even more so where the patient is a minor. As much as that sucks--because you truly sound like a wonderful person who cares for this child--I would think that it's part of your job to draw the line between personal and professional.
I will respectfully disagree with this. Doctors, nurses, etc are still people and they can meet people through their job that touch their lives.

I have made some good friends through my work. I still have to maintain the professional distance when dealing with work matters, but can enjoy their company and conversation away from work.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 11:10 AM   #13
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Whoa. You are an adult, paid, professional caregiver. He is a minor. Legally, it is that simple.

Many rationalizations and reasons may be listed, greatest of which is that you are a truly caring human being. Until he reaches the age of majority, you can open yourself and your career to too many accusations of wrongdoing.

When he is on your ward, do you seek to be assigned to him? If so, do your other patients receive the same level of attention? Do other patients - children - sense that you care more for him, and by definition, less for them? Do parents of the other children notice? Do your peers?

It is human and commendable that you genuinely care for your patients. It is also your responsibility to maintain a professional detachment, if for nothing else, for the sake of objectivity in assessing the needs of all the patients to which you are assigned.

Back to the favored child. Has any of your contact with this young man been inappropriate? Is it possible that he has misread your "familial" feelings toward him as romantic, and if questioned, would report as much? "She loves me. She said so."

When forming a relationship with a patient or family member of a patient, it is unfair and unbalanced to make it personal. They "need" you and are extremely vulnerable. IF THEY still "want" to talk to you after they no longer "need" you, then it is "outside of work." As long as they are ill, they are a vulnerable patient, and deserve- YES, DESERVE - your professional respect of their submissive stance in the relationship.

To compare peers to patients, well, just WOW. It may be assumed that your peers are PEERS, on an equal footing in knowledge and health. To use someone who is paying you to give care, and to use their vulnerability to your benefit (melting your heart) in a relationship is just WRONG. His sweetness is due to his age, and partially to the ways in which you have given care. Your heart may be melted, but you are paid to keep it to yourself.

To add to this, you sound mildly judgmental about his mother. You loosely describe neglect rather than coping. You paint yourself as standing in her stead. You were paid to do so. She went through birth, and has coped with the prospect of losing that child for SIXTEEN years. You were there when she wasn't, because she was working. SO WERE YOU. Have you ever hinted at this neglect to the patient? Has his mother sensed your judgment of her, causing her to visit less, or when you were not on duty? Does he seek your "support" over hers becuase you have fostered that? How would you know? Your relationship with the child is more developed than that with the adult parent. How dare you?

I keep repeating that you were paid, with intent. Close your eyes, AlpineMeadow (how dreamy). CHOOSE the type of paid professional you wish to be.

That you are unable to see these issues? STAY AWAY. To help you, imagine explaining your "feelings" to justify your actions in a court of law.

It is absolutely offensive to me that you have used your position of power to subtly undermine the mother-child relationship in this family, instead of supporting it. My mother was a NICU nurse, and I held her during many tears. I was her ear. NEVER ONCE did I hear her judge a parent for the way he or she reacted. I heard her speak of their suffering. I watched her read everything she could get her hands on to help support them. Inservices, training and JCAHO. She went to the funerals when invited. She cried real tears for the parents, and for the infant angels. It is okay to accept a fruit basket, but to accept an emotional tie with a minor is beyond the pale.

I need to stop now. I'm setting here, imagining you picking out a fingernail color he might like. Your thoughts have brought you to inappropriate emotions for a professional.

Think Woody Allen.

Does that answer your question?

 
Old 11-02-2010, 12:55 PM   #14
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

Basically, it all comes down to this: do you have romantic feelings for the boy (is he filling a gap in your sentimental life?) or do you want your role exclusively to be that of a mentor to the boy?

If the former is the case, and only you can decide whether it is or not, then I would suggest you back away, not because your feelings are wrong, but because the consequences of such a relationship could be disatrous, especially because he is still a minor. I am not not trying to moralize here, and in my mind any kind of relationship is possible, provided that the two parties are both giving and taking and able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

If the latter is the case, then, on second thoughts, it might be interesting for you to try and approach his mother as well, so that the relationship becomes wider and the focus is rather on his family than only on him, until he is old enough to choose and walk on his own.

 
Old 11-02-2010, 01:01 PM   #15
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Re: need help with an unusual relationship issue

many different bits of advice, but I think you need to tread lightly since he is a minor. I would not be emailing him from a home account. I don't think giving him your cell number is appropriate. I used to teach high school, I would never give a student my cell number. They had my work email and I would check if every night, but never would I give out my personal information to a student.

I guess my question is, how are you just seeing the son when he is in the hospital and not the mother or another parent? A parent would have to sign a minor in and out I would think. I don't know what he is in the hospital for, but surely isn't there a relative around when when he is there?
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