What happens to a premature infant in an anonymous hospital's neonatal intensive-care unit when modern medicine is relentlessly applied. Born too early, Carrie Stirt rapidly deteriorates when infections invade her body. The subsequent treatment—powerful antibiotics; surgery to remove a section of her bowel and then more surgery to reconnect it; countless painful procedures, risky tests, and 27 blood transfusions—save her life but at an unknown cost to her future health. The description here of the first two months of Carrie's life, when her survival was highly questionable, is of special interest because the author, Carrie's father, is himself a physician at the hospital: Though part of the system, he has no real control over what is happening to his daughter. Nor does Carrie's mother, a former ICU nurse; moreover, the Stirts' medical background, which might seem like an advantage, actually has its disadvantages, for it makes the couple particularly aware of the terrible risks to their child posed by modern medical techniques. Decisions are out of the Stirts' control, and there is little they can do but watch and wait. The tension of waiting builds on the page through the inclusion of day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, reports and comments, apparently taken verbatim from the infant's chart. Stirt interprets these records, reading into them the motives and reasoning of the doctors and nurses who made them, and he imparts his own fears about their implications for his daughter's safety. An afterword reveals that Carrie, now eight, appears to be a normal third-grader (although deaf in one ear), but that the long-term consequences of her early exposure to toxic drugs and radiation are still unknown. A touching human drama presented with scientific expertise that makes frighteningly clear the helplessness of patients—as well as their families—once the power of modern medicine is unleashed.
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