Phillips’ debut memoir tells the story of how a wish when he was an ill child led to his career as a successful doctor.
As a boy growing up in Jena, Louisiana, the author suffered from a serious heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot. It was so serious that when he was 11 years old, the Starlight Children’s Foundation flew him and his mother to the set of his most beloved television show, ABC’s Growing Pains. Phillips’ favorite character was Ben Seaver, played by child actor Jeremy Miller, mostly because the troubled Phillips was so enamored with Ben’s seemingly perfect life. The trip was a huge inspiration to the author. “The Starlight wish,” he remembers, “set into motion the idea that if I could go from Jena to Hollywood, I could go from despair to hope, from an adolescent death sentence to the fulfilling life I have today as a pediatric cardiologist.” In the memoir, the author recounts that journey, from the effects of his illness on his already troubled family life to his trip to the Growing Pains set to his fears of not being able to attend college to an unexpected second open heart surgery when he was attending medical school in New Orleans. Just as he was graduating, fate happened to bring the reunited Growing Pains cast to Louisiana, giving Phillips the opportunity to thank the actor who’d inspired him years before. Phillips writes in a clean, conversational prose style: “I knew just enough from my anatomy class to worry about the possible risks of the surgery, and I could not stop going over all the things that could go wrong.” In addition to his own story, he writes quite a bit about the life and struggles of Miller, who’s listed as a co-author here; these include dysfunctional family issues, struggles with anxiety, and financial troubles. The connection between Phillips and the sitcom star is legitimately intriguing, and readers who are religiously inclined (like Phillips and Growing Pains co-star Kirk Cameron, who provides the book's introduction) might see the hand of God at work in this story.
An earnest, inspiring memoir for Christian readers and fans of Growing Pains.