Minneapolis man hopes to find medical answers from birth mother
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Searching for something -- anything -- that can help doctors, a Minneapolis man is looking for the woman who gave him life and then gave him up for adoption in McCook, Neb., in 1963.
Fifty-three-year-old Shane Patrick Fleming knows many of the pieces of his life's puzzle, but not enough to help doctors who are treating his 25-year-old son for orthostatic hypertension, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Celiac disease.
"I have two amazing sons," Shane said recently over the telephone. His oldest, 25-year-old Shane Patrick Fleming II, is a dedicated fitness enthusiast. Yet, his father says, "He hasn't felt vibrant, clear, sharp for nearly four years -- despite being under the care of many highly-respected specialists."
Shane's second son, Dakota Shea, 20 years old, has also recently been dealing with some health issues -- persistent stomach problems -- that have yet to be diagnosed. These are very debilitating at times and are growing in intensity and frequency, Shane says.
The older Shane has been a health club executive for the last 24 years, and in the fitness business for 31 years. In 2008, he battled his own health issues, including Hepatitis C, membranous nephropathy and Reynaud's disease. "Aside from that, I am in great health," Shane says.
It is because of these issues and his sons' health challenges that he began a fervent search to find his birth parents, specifically his mother.
"I am desperately trying to find out whatever family medical history I can get my hands on to help my sons," Shane says.
Shane promises, "This is not a hunt to destroy anyone's life. ... I have no bloodline, no history. My first impetus is to find my family history. If something is known, maybe it can help steer the doctors as they treat my sons."
Shane says he had a wonderful childhood, adopted by Shirley and Patrick Fleming of Lincoln, Neb., through Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska (Lincoln) in coordination with Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas (Salina).
Shane grew up knowing he was adopted, and promising his adoptive mother that he would not ever search for what she called his "real mother." Shane says, "I always reinforced the fact that she was my 'real mother' and that I had no interest in finding my birth mother. I had a happy childhood and loved my parents."
Shane's mother died of cancer in 1986, having gone into remission twice and undergone chemotherapy three times since 1976.
Shane, "I kept my word for over 40 years -- nearly 30 of which were after her death. I have kept my word -- and now, I feel compelled to find my birth mother."
Shane has worked with Catholic Social Services, and they've given him what they can. This is what Shane knows:
* He was born May 28, 1963, at St Catherine's Hospital in McCook Nebraska.
* His birth mother was 20 years old; she was 5'6" tall and she weighed 105 pounds. She had sandy-blond hair and her family was of German descent.
* He feels "95 percent confident" that she was from Kansas and her last name was Zimmerman, but he does not know her first name or her hometown or any specifics about her parents' names or siblings' names.
* She was most likely made to leave her home and home state (parental shame/unwed mother issue) and the college she attended in Kansas, to carry the baby, give birth and then give up the baby for immediate adoption.
* She moved to McCook in late 1962 or early 1963. "I imagine it was a very tough time for her. Her parents gave her no option -- they made it happen," Shane said. The situation was a common practice of the times.
* She worked as a clerk at St. Catherine's Hospital from the time she arrived in McCook until she gave birth -- then she left immediately.
* The adoption had been set well in advance of the baby's birth -- CSS made all arrangements. Catholic Social Services handled all aspects of the adoption, and still now can release no specifics about Shane's adoption or his mother.
* The baby spent a few weeks in a foster home in Lincoln (a post-birth waiting period).
* He was placed with Patrick and Shirley Fleming at 3 1/2 weeks old.
* The adoption decree shows that the baby boy's given birth name was John Zimmerman and was changed immediately to Shane Patrick Fleming. Shane said he accidentally found out his mother's last name was Zimmerman. He has been told by CSS that his mother's first name "was a very, very common name" in the early 1940's. "Mary ... Catherine ... Patricia ... ?" Shane wonders.
Shane said recently, "I know there are people who knew my birth mother. I imagine that when a 20-year-old unwed pregnant girl or young woman, with no ties to McCook, suddenly shows up at St. Catherine's as a clerk, goes through the last four to six months of pregnancy, gives birth and then leaves suddenly, people talk. In 1963, this would have been big news."
Shane said he is operating under the assumption that his birth mother and birth father are still alive, "although I am not 100 percent certain of that." He explained that Catholic Social Services has done its best to check the names against obituary records in Kansas and neighboring states. "It is possible they missed it or the obituary for my birth mother was under a married name -- or that she moved to a state that they haven't cross-referenced," Shane said.
Shane says that his adoption file indicates that his birth mother and father were very much in love, but that the families did not approve of the relationship and therefore, when his mom became pregnant, marriage was off the table and adoption was the only course. Shane says, "My mom was sent away, shrouded in shame, all alone, to an unfamiliar town ... to go through what may have been the most difficult time of her life. She gave away her flesh and blood -- her first-born. Who knows -- maybe her only child."
Shane reiterates that he is not searching for his birth parents, specifically his birth mother, to upset anyone's life.
He explains, "I am racing against the clock. This is for the health and well-being of my two children. It has also become important to me for very personal reasons. I lost my birth mother at birth, and I lost my adoptive mother at age 23. I am now 53 --- I want to find my birth mother and birth father," hopefully before time runs out for all involved.
Shane says that he cleared his search first with his adoptive father -- " my 'real Dad.' He has been a great father to me and my family, and I love him very much. I would not want to hurt him, or make him feel that my life wasn't 'good enough.' It has nothing to do with that. He has encouraged me to move ahead -- full speed."
Shane said that his adoptive parents adopted four children after the birth of their one and only 'natural' child, Shane's brother, Peter, now 58 years old. "They tried to conceive for several years after his birth and were not successful. They adopted me in 1963, and, (after the family moved to Minneapolis in 1964), my sister Erin in 1964, my sister Dianna in 1966 and my sister Juliet in 1968. All of us were adopted via the Catholic Social Services (me in Lincoln) and my three sisters in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.," Shane said.
Shane is looking for any scrap of information ... any memory from 1963, at St. Catherine's Hospital in McCook. "Please help any way you can. If you know anything at all -- big details -- small details. Anything," he asks.