MATERNITY WARD by Susan Stanley


Behind the Scenes at a Big City Hospital
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 Stanley, a free-lance journalist from Portland, Oregon, chronicles her three-week sojourn as a fly on the wall in the labor-and-delivery unit of Oregon Health Services Univ. Hospital, a.k.a. ``Pill Hill.'' Stanley chose OHSUH because of its huge volume of patients (250 babies born each month), its state-of-the-art fertility clinic and high-risk-pregnancy facilities, its staff--caring and compassionate to a one, from her description--and its mixed clientele: a few paying patients, a great many indigent women. Daughters impregnated by their fathers, 13-year-olds raped by mothers' boyfriends, drug addicts whose fetuses somersault in their wombs on the ultrasound screen--all are familiar presences on Pill Hill. Stanley gives brief profiles of the dramatis personae: Lily Pratt, a prospective first-time mother who faces an extremely high- risk delivery because of her weight of 468 pounds; Julie O'Brien, about to give birth to a child she knows will be deformed and will probably die; ``Animal'' and Harriet Grackle, an endearing though raffish biker couple--to name just a few. Life and death, blood and tears, and every other bodily humor or product--all are here in faithful detail. In fact, too faithful detail--much of the dramatic impact is dulled by Stanley's attempt to render such a vast cast of characters and describe every Betadine scrub, every Mityvac suctioning, every sugar binge in the staff room. The larger issues challenging obstetrics today--malpractice, maternal drug-abuse, widespread lack of medical insurance, lack of affordable prenatal care for the poor, fertility problems of older two-career couples, parents' sense of entitlement to a ``perfect'' baby--are touched upon but ultimately overshadowed by minutiae. Superficial, then, but, for fans of medical drama, still a roller-coaster ride with plenty of peaks and plunges.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1992
ISBN: 1-557-10022-5
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1992