Thicker Than Water

Tamara Zwyck changed her name to Samantha when the Millers adopted her at age six. She was tired of being a foster child and was eager for a new life and a new identity with her new mother and father. A lively brunette with dark eyes, a broad smile and a boyish haircut, she started to fuss with her hair and loved going through her adoptive mothers custom jewelry boxes. She liked school and joined the Sunday school and youth choir of her parents’ Methodist Church.

Bill and Barbara Miller were a childless couple in their early forties when Samantha came into their life. They values were old-fashioned and they were quiet, orderly people. They always seemed to be looking out for Samantha’s welfare and development, and seemed to be a very happy little family.

Samantha’s old foster mother kept in touch with the Millers, but the State social workers soon withdrew from Samantha’s case, since everything about this adoption seemed to go exceptionally smoothly.

Last summer I saw Barbara Miller for a routine visit, and she looked tired and sad.

“It’s Sam”, she said. “She’s rebelling against everything we say, and I’m afraid we’re losing her.” Samantha was almost sixteen then, and I hadn’t seen her for about a year.

“She’s skipping school and I think she’s doing drugs,” Barbara added. We talked about her options.

It wasn’t long before I got the first Emergency Room report on Samantha. Then there was a records release soon after she turned sixteen. She was in a shelter, and they needed her medical information.

When I saw Bill Miller a short while later, he told me Samantha was back with them, but still fighting them about their house rules and expectations. He told me Sam had been in contact with a biological aunt in the same town.

“Sam is playing her aunt against us,” he said, “and her aunt is telling her that if Sam goes to live with her, she will have the freedom to smoke, go out with boys, and anything else she wants.”

“She is saying things like we’re not her real family, and we don’t respect her for who she really is. We love her so much and we don’t want to lose her, but we don’t want to condone what we think is wrong just out of fear that she will run away again.”

I could literally feel his desperation. In our state you cannot prevent a sixteen year old from running away and living with someone else.

“I think all you can do is tell her you love her and explain what you want for her,” I started. “You can’t threaten her, because the law gives you no options to control her, and you know threats don’t work anyway.”

Bill’s blood pressure was too high and we started him on a new medication. He came back for a recheck a month later and told me Samantha had left the Millers to live with her aunt.

“She’s the only daughter we’ll ever have,” he said somberly, adding, “I never wanted to believe that blood is thicker than water.”

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.



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