Medical Controversies: Tanner

Medical Controversies: Tanner
Dr. Phil talks to a woman who can't get over her son's shoulder injury.
Lisa was devastated when her son, Tanner, was injured during his delivery three and a half years ago. She recalls, "The person applied traction to my baby's head, which injured the nerves in his neck. He was born with a completely limp and paralyzed right arm."

Ferrin, Lisa's 17-year-old daughter, shares her pain. "The first few months after Tanner was born, it was really hard because my parents were constantly crying," she says tearfully. "I wish I could give my arm to Tanner."

Tanner has had to endure intense therapy, including exercise every
few hours. "I've been so wrapped up in caring for my son, I haven't made time to be with my daughter," Lisa says.

Her husband, Pete, says Tanner's injury has consumed his family, and he barely gets to spend time with Lisa. She's been spending most of her time running a support group to make people aware of Tanner's condition, brachial plexus. "It's hurt our time as a family," says Pete.

Realizing that she is neglecting her family, Lisa turns to Dr. Phil for help.
"What's driving you?" Dr. Phil asks Lisa. "This just didn't happen to Tanner. It happened to the whole family, right? Tanner's what I call the target patient. He's the one that sustained the injury. He's the one who's requiring the focus and the care, but it affects you too." To Pete, he says, "You're saying that this drive that your wife feels is taking her
away from the rest of the family ... Tell me about that."

Pete says, "It's a really tough thing to balance for me and for Ferrin. For all of us." He says that when he comes home from work, Lisa is often consumed with researching Tanner's condition on the computer."Are you still bitter, angry and hurt over what happened?" Dr. Phil asks Lisa.

She nods. "Very much so."

"Are you still feeling guilty because you didn't do what it took to protect your child and make sure that he came into this world without injury?"

When Lisa says yes, Dr. Phil says, "And isn't that in fact what's driving you here? To try to say, 'I will make up for it with absolutely frenetic involvement and giving and energy to try to set all of that right?"

"Pretty much, yes," Lisa replies.

Dr. Phil acknowledges that Lisa's commitment and work ethic is admirable, but she can't let anger and bitterness consume her. "If I told you that what you're doing could be in fact contributing to his limitations in a dramatic way, would you want to know how and where and what you needed to change?

"Yes, I want to know," Lisa says, crying. "I'm not sure if I could do it, I'll try. But I want to know."
"One of the things that we know is if children face medical challenges, physical limitations, one of the worst things in the world you can do is overprotect them," Dr. Phil tells Lisa. "If you're driven from guilt and therefore you're in there trying to make sure nothing else ever brushes up against this child, nothing else ever impacts him, you can create more problems."

Dr. Frank Lawlis, who has specialized in rehabilitation, agrees.
"It's very, very important to empower your child, especially if your child has some kind of challenge. Actually, these children can develop even a better self image than the average child because they have this really solid event to go through," Dr. Lawlis explains.

Dr. Phil reiterates: "The key word that Dr. Lawlis is saying here is to empower him from the inside out so he doesn't feel fragile ... he's got to have a feeling of self-determination, self-mastery in the world and he can't get that if you continue to parent him, treat him, therapy him from a position of guilt."When Lisa and Pete begin to question what they could have done differently, Dr. Phil interjects. "You can make yourself crazy by playing what-if: 'What if I had known something then that I know now? ... Not even God can change what has happened. The only time is now,'" he warns. "Parenting has got to be a no-guilt zone. You cannot do this out of guilt and fear. You can't continue to harbor this bitterness and anger and
resentment and try frenetically to right the wrongs of the world. That's not going to help your son or your family."

Turning to Lisa, Dr. Phil says, "Should you continue your volunteer work? I hope you do, and God bless you for doing it because you can save so many moms because they'll have information you didn't have, but it's all about balance ... The greatest gift that you can give to your son is to take care of the relationship with his father. A good solid marriage is so important."

In Family First, Dr. Phil explains that there has to be a nurturing and accepting family system in which there's a role for everyone. "I don't want Tanner's role to become the invalid. I don't want his role to become the origin of strife for the rest of the family." To Lisa, he advises, "You've got to make a shift in your mind and heart ... Start to delegate some of these things ... You've done the best you could, but I'm asking you now to make a shift in your spirit and do better."