An elucidation of the human child’s organs, the how and why of illnesses that strike them, and such related issues as circumcision, vaccination, abortion, learning disabilities, and child abuse—all enriched by the author’s personal memories.
Sanghavi (Pediatric Cardiologist/Children’s Hospital, Boston) organizes his text around organs, devoting a chapter each to the lungs, heart, blood, bones, brain, skin, gonads, and finally the guts. He uses stories of his young patients and their concerned parents to explain a great deal about anatomy, medicine, procedures, and problems. In the section on lungs, for example, the birth of a premature baby reveals how the lungs develop, the case of an asthmatic girl raises public health issues, and children with cystic fibrosis demonstrate the failed promise of gene therapy. The chapter on bones, which discusses medical identification of child battery, focuses on the case of Matthew Eappen, whose death resulted in the well-publicized 1997 trial and conviction of an English au pair (later released by the judge). Sanghavi’s patients come to him with conditions as common as chicken pox or diabetes and as rare as ambiguous sexuality, a brain tumor, or a malformed heart. They include children from such diverse backgrounds as a Boston slum, a Tokyo suburb, and a Navajo reservation. Into his insightful narratives of these youngsters, he weaves touching memories of his parents, especially his ailing father, and family stories of life in India. Poignantly, the chapter on skin, which opens in a neonatal care unit where a new father is warming his tiny infant son by holding him against his own bare chest, closes with the author throwing handfuls of his father’s ashes into a river and feeling fine particles of the dust blow back onto the skin of his own face and hands. Sanghavi describes this work as part of his “quest to learn humanity,” a goal he has heartwarmingly achieved.
Appealing and informative.