Upstate News

October 3, 2008
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital publishes personal stories of hope for families of sick children

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Eleven stories with personal reflections from families across Central New York whose children were treated at University Hospital are contained in new book, titled “A Second Set of Hands,” published by the hospital’s Center for Spiritual Care.

In their own words, families lead readers on a rollercoaster of emotions often beginning with a difficult diagnosis. Along the way, they meet dozens of doctors, nurses and other specialists and embrace other families experiencing similar challenges. But what weaves the stories together is how the families reach out to “a second set of hands” that offers spiritual strength to help shoulder the concern for an ill child.

Some stories have joyful endings, others conclude filled with sadness and the deepest grief of losing a child. But through the smiles and tears, the families have found the strength to share their personal accounts of coping with sick children.

“Sharing these stories is often powerful medicine for hope and healing,” said the Rev. Louise Tallman-Shepard, University Hospital’s Pediatric Chaplain. “The courage, inspiration and understanding one gets from reading these extremely personal stories can bring great comfort in a time of need, such as caring for a sick child.”

In her role at University Hospital, Shepard visits with many families whose lives have changed in a blink of an eye, and she often leaves them with a copy of “A Second Set of Hands” for reading when the time is right. “I think it’s very helpful to know that someone else has shared a similar experience which can bring feelings of helplessness, anger, guilt, doubt, and even joy,” she said.

In the chapter Perspectives of a Clergy Parent, the Rev. Wes Fleming of Eastside Vineyard Church in DeWitt shares insights from his spiritual journey as a pastor and parent of a child with a brain tumor. Helplessly watching his daughter endure yet another round of chemotherapy in her 14-year battle against a brain tumor, he writes of his feelings of betrayal: “How can the God who cares for me and superintends over every detail of my life and those I love allow cancer to harm my child?”

But it is Fleming’s “angry hope” as he calls it, and greater awareness of God in his life that cause him to find comfort and even meaning in his daughter’s ordeal. “God’s continued expressions of loving kindness wear out my complaints and turn my anger of despair into an anger of hope—my sense of powerlessness and guilt into enthusiasm and purpose.” Fleming and his daughter, Beth, are founders of central New York’s annual Father Daughter Valentine Ball. Putting their “angry hope” to work, they have raised over $150, 000 for the Golisano Children’s hospital over the past six years.

Dedicating his life to caring and healing other parents’ children, Ran Anbar, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist, found himself on the receiving end of a difficult diagnosis for his daughter.

In the chapter Perspectives of a Physician Parent, readers join Anbar on an emotional and spiritual journey that begins when he and his wife are told their newborn daughter would need heart surgery to correct a serious heart condition, but that the surgery could not be performed until she was older and stronger.

During the next three years, despite constant prayer and a deep faith, Anbar and his family still remained anxious about their daughter’s health. “I asked myself why it was that I was anxious if I had a strong faith in God,” Anbar writes. “I had a notion that if a person has complete faith in God that he should have no fear.”

Anbar said he is grateful to be able to share his story with others. “My job as a physician is to help other people and their children in this situation,” he said. “This was a new experience for me; it made me a better physician and provided me with a greater understanding of what parents face when given the news that their child is sick.”

The book features stories from families in Baldwinsville, Cazenovia, Fayetteville, Frankfort, Jamesville, Johnson City, North Syracuse and Syracuse.

The book is available in the University Hospital Gift Shop and will be in local bookstores soon.

Funding for the book was provided by the Wilbert Foundation.

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