An absorbing, blow-by-blow account of life and death in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), from the father of premature twins.
Woodwell (Choosing the President: A Citizens Guide to the 2000 Election, not reviewed) strays from his usual territory to write this intensely personal story of the tragedy that struck him and his wife several years ago. Diagnosed with preeclampsia, Kim Woodwell was forced to deliver twin girls, Josie and Nina, four months before they were due. The author recounts the excitement the couple shared upon learning they were to have twins, the fear he felt as Kim underwent surgery, and the helplessness of watching their daughters, both weighing less than a pound, struggle for life, dependant on a seemingly endless barrage of life-sustaining equipment, medications, and injections. Woodwell juxtaposes the narrative of this painful period with excerpts from his journal and the hospital’s reports on the babies’ conditions. The reader is thus exposed to the different lenses of raw emotion, sentimental clarity, and cool medical analysis. He describes their feeling at seeing their child “unmoving, pale and thin,” and compares it to the hospital assessment that the child is “hemodynamically unstable.” He simultaneously expresses frustration and admiration at the science and medicine involved in sustaining life, observing, “It’s the babies, not the doctors or the technology, that are running the show.” Ultimately, this is a testimony to the complexity of human life, concluding that birth is truly miraculous given the challenges involved. “Considering all of the things that could easily go wrong, and that often do, every child that comes into the world on schedule and according to plan is a gift.” Woodwell’s emotional journey ends in the realization that “. . . all that life is precious—precious enough to be saved, no matter the cost.”
A rollercoaster of hope and despair, told with emotional honesty and couched in suspense.