Cairns’ debut recounts her emotional journey of caring for two ill children, culminating in her daughter’s heart transplant.
When the Australian author was 19 years old, her parents introduced her to her future husband, then-15-year-old Lucas, and his family: “I could never have known…one day, that family, along with the health challenges ahead they had to face, would become mine too.” Years later, she and Lucas fell in love, got married, and moved from Sydney to the small town of Grafton, where they raised their young boy, Elijah. Soon they had a daughter, Luka-Angel, who was born with viral meningitis. After the birth of their third child, Jazziah, a doctor realized that the two youngest children had congenitally weak hearts—a condition called cardiomyopathy, which ran in the Cairns family. The children struggled to live normal lives with a condition that had the potential to put them into cardiac arrest with too much exertion. Finally, the family made the terrifying decision to put Luka on a waitlist for a heart transplant, despite the risks. They flew across the country at a moment’s notice so that young Luka could undergo the dangerous, life-changing procedure. The memoir’s first third is dragged down by tangential stories about family life and an upsetting account of an abusive neighbor. However, Cairns narrates the transplant itself with great care, depicting the delirium that comes from waiting countless hours for news as well as the long and uneasy road to full recovery. She’s also very effective at relating the sadness of restricted childhoods; at one point, for instance, she tells of having to drag young Jazz away from a race that he wanted to run. The author mixes in intimate diary entries, drawings, and photos that will help to give readers a fuller view of her emotional state throughout her ordeal.
An affecting memoir that takes readers into the struggles of a life-threatening condition.