Philadelphia Daily News writer Kram explores the complicated relationships among family, love, duty and assisted suicide.
During a football game in a small Pennsylvania town in 1973, Buddy Miley, an 18-year-old quarterback with plenty of athletic promise, suffered a devastating accident that left him a quadriplegic. In 1997, with the help of his younger brother Jimmy, Miley died at the hands of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Kram poignantly tracks the family’s emotional struggles following the accident. The author first met Miley in 1993 after Miley’s mother Rosemarie wrote a protest letter to Sports Illustrated after New York Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd suffered a spinal injury in a game. She decried football’s glamorization of violence and wondered if the NFL should “donate some of its profits to aid research into spinal cord injuries.” Kram’s editor urged him to visit Miley, sensing he might find a local angle to what had become a national debate on spinal-cord injuries. By the time the two men met, Miley had spent nearly 20 years, or “better than seven thousand days,” unable to care for himself. Rosemarie assumed the bulk of responsibility for her son’s care. “With no appreciable help from her husband,” writes Kram, “Rosemarie had soldiered on with the help of her other now-grown children.” Worried about his aging mother and his own deteriorating condition, Miley began contemplating suicide. Kram deftly reveals the intimate details of the story, and he delves into the complex and troubled Miley family dynamics with a skilled reporter’s eye.
A heartbreaking story of love and dedication told with remarkable compassion and literary skill.