Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU
by Adam Wolfberg; c.2012, Harvard Health / Beacon Press; $25.95 / $29.00 Canada, 176 pages
You remember thinking that you’d never seen anything so small.
The tiny buttons seemed impossible for adult fingers to maneuver. The shoes wouldn’t accommodate your big toe, the little hat barely fit over your fist, and the teensy socks? They looked like they’d been knitted by fairies.
Little things for little people, that’s what they were, and your child grew so fast that she wore them just once. That’s what babies do. But, as you’ll see in the new memoir Fragile Beginnings by Adam Wolfberg, MD, sometimes, that’s not always the case.
Kelly Lowry sensed that something wasn’t quite right.
With three months to go before her third child was due, Kelly knew she shouldn’t be having contractions. Lowry and her husband, Adam Wolfberg, planned to name their baby Larissa and their two older girls were eager for a little sister, although not for several more weeks.
But Larissa couldn’t wait, and was born after 28 weeks in the womb. As an obstetrics resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Adam Wolfberg knew what this early birth meant for his daughter, and it wasn’t good.
Generally speaking, babies born before a certain point in pregnancy die more often than not, says Wolfberg. Almost every hospital has established policies concerning the life-or-death decisions made for the smallest newborns and doctors give their best, but the truth is that some babies are simply born too small to survive.
About the size of a man’s hand, Larissa was in that “iffy” zone with a prognosis that might’ve been better, had she not suffered bleeding in her brain as a result of birth. Tests indicated that the situation was severe but though there was hope, the probability was that she would have severe physical and mental impairments.
Wolfberg searched every corner of the internet for scraps of good news, while Larissa got the best care possible. Still, though researchers constantly look for ways to help babies in her situation – as well as adults who’ve suffered head and spinal injuries – doctors didn’t seem too optimistic for her.
But then the little girl surprised everyone: she thrived.
There’s a lot to like about Fragile Beginnings, starting with the hope that it gives to parents of the tiniest of babies.
As an obstetrician, author Adam Wolfberg had a unique perspective on his daughter’s care and the cutting-edge research that went into it. Wolfberg gives his readers an idea of what’s happening in laboratories and hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, and how the brain’s plasticity could give patients and parents some exciting news.
As a father, though, Wolfberg the doctor became Wolfberg the patient, and his reaction to that gives this memoir another different slant. Frustration of this sort is something we just don’t read about very often.
Brain Power by Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell; c.2012, New World Library; $14.95 / $16.95 Canada, 230 pages
How can you stay sharp and mentally active for the rest of your life? Find the answers in the new book Brain Power by Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell.
Let’s face it: from the moment you were born, you started to get old. Resistance, as they say, is futile so the first thing you can do to age well is to give up the idea that you’ll ever find The Fountain of Youth.
The good news, say the authors, is that your brain is designed to improve throughout life and it won’t wear out. Brain matter benefits from “plasticity,” which means you can even raise your IQ and sharpen your memory if you use what’s in your noggin.
The biggest thing you can to do to help age-proof your brain, according to Gelb and Howell, is to maintain a positive attitude. Studies show that staying engaged in the world around you, cultivating childlike curiosity, looking for positive expectations, and being upbeat can improve memory and mental well-being. Those tips also help your physical state and can lower blood pressure.
Practice GFH (gratitude, forgiveness, and humor). Notice your surroundings and try to learn something new every day. Change your way of looking at aging by changing the way you talk about it: you are not a “geezer” or a “granny.” You are an elder or a matriarch.
Challenge yourself. Learn a musical instrument or a new language. Stay active, stay hydrated, and eat well. Get outside at least 30 minutes a day. Cherish your friends and maintain relationships.
Brain Power is filled with great tips and ideas for maintaining a youthful presence, no matter how much past youth you get. Authors Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell present some interesting and easy-to-do ways to keep active, both physically and mentally, and they even offer some “brain sync audio” downloads that you can use to help keep your grey matter from sinking into the blues.
The problem is that most of this has been written about already – a lot. That doesn’t make it bad information; it’s good, in fact, but it’s been around the block a time or two.
I think if you’re new to these ideas and this is the first book you’ve considered on the topic, what you’ll find in Brain Power will be revolutionary. If you’ve read other books like this one, though, this stuff is already old.