“The Records…..Have Likely Been Destroyed….”

“I’m sorry I don’t have any personal recollection of the burn incident details although I do recall that there was such an incident,” Dr. Kaftan wrote to me the other day, in answer to my query.  Not only had my mother listed Dr. Kaftan, a pediatrician in Green Bay who is now retired, in my baby book as part of the team when I was burned but we’d known the Kaftan family as long as I could remember.  It was my Aunt Janet who recently encouraged me to call or write Dr. Kaftan — she had done the advance work for me and chatted with him about my contacting him.  I was excited to do so not only because the thought that he would have some recollections loomed large but because he was now the last remaining member of my team of doctors.  Drs. Lynn, von Heimburg and Hoops have all since passed away. 

“I am sure you are correct that the records of the Webster Clinic doctors have likely been destroyed……although I would be glad to inquire if you would like me to,” he helpfully offered. 

Ah yes, paper records.   An email that you or I send today lives on ad infinitum in cyberspace.  Paper medical records from before the 1980s are subject to records retention policies and typically destroyed on a schedule or shortly after a doctor retires.  Oddly, in our technology oriented world, they tend not to be converted into electronic records, the belief being that no one is interested in them any more. 

Medical records policies aside, I have to say this new information just sucks.  Dead ends and I do not get along.  When news of this ilk comes my way, I want to yell out, “Hey, I was seriously burned.  I’m not making this up.  I have scars to prove it.  Why don’t you people remember anything about it because I sure do!”  But that is how this particular ball bounces.   I will make yet another effort to contact the Clinic/s and see if anything remains.  Beyond that, there are a couple of people still on my list to interview about their recollections.  After that, my story moves ahead. 

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I eventually received my resolution on all this.  It’s that resolution that lead me to explore the accident and early records.  Whatever I find or don’t find from days gone by will be what it will be.  It would just be nice to have a complete picture though the reality is that all our stories are somewhat imperfect.


  1. Hey A, It just reminds me of one of those recent Liam Neeson/Julianne Moore movies where they walk around and no one knows them. It’s understandable, my memory is so selective too, but it’s just weird that no one remembers… Especially a doctor, since I would think he would need a pretty good memory in his field. It’s so frustrating…


    1. Eva — I know what you mean or should I say I am living what you mean. I have the scars so know this happened but more and more am thinking that at that time and place in history, it was perhaps the better choice for everyone involved to move past it. It must have been too difficult or too painful for people to talk to my parents about it. It all seemed to get buried under a rug since I was “fine” and had few lasting physical issues with it. Maybe this is what happens in relatively small towns and hamlets. Any thoughts on that anyone?


      1. It may be that generation. No one talked about feelings. My memories tend to be based on how I felt, not so much on the actual event. Maybe if you take emotion out of the equation, then the memory isn’t as vivid.


  2. Louise — I know, it seems improbable in so many ways and respects. But I can’t force people to remember things they say they do not. It’s frustrating in some ways; understandable in others — we all see the same event differently. I bet these doctors had a ton of trauma patients — though it’s just strange that someone who knew my parents socially would not remember this type of event. There has to be someone out there who does!


  3. I am disappointed too! In a time when you actually had a relationship with your doctor and especially in this situation where your family had connections as well, you would think he would be able to recall the incident more readily. I can’t imagine there were too many similar accidents of this nature and would have thought it would stand out more in his memory? But as a Doctor, maybe you have to distance yourself from all the emotional or otherwise you would not be able to continue on…


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