Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 5 - Page 19

having worked numerous odd jobs , he purchased a 1973 Camaro . He and his dad worked tirelessly to restore the car that would ultimately grant him the freedom desired by nearly every 16-year-old . Yet , in a nod to his adept skill of acknowledging his own psyche , he writes of the loneliness and anxiety he felt as he drove off from his parents ’ house for the first time in his newly restored Camaro , his life ahead of him . He senses this same feeling of loneliness and unpreparedness as his wife is admitted to the antepartum unit with an uncertain path ahead .
Mr . Donohue conveys the depth of his feelings at each turn through the book and few stones are left unturned . As the pregnancy unfolds and the complexities and risks intensify , Mr . Donohue and his wife are thrust into an emergent delivery , by the obstetrician ’ s urgent words “ We ’ re going ,” minutes after an ultrasound confirmed cord entanglement and decelerations in twin B at 27 1 / 2 weeks gestation . After a delivery , with both twin boys in a tenuous state and their hopes of maintaining gestation to 32 weeks dashed , they find themselves in the NICU and eventually infected with what Mr . Donohue coins “ NICU-itis .” This syndrome , brought on by the grind of months of visitation , near death experiences and complication management , left him with persistent “ wonder and uncertainty ” and scars that linger still .
While skillful editing would have trimmed some details from his recount of this section , it is remarkable that Mr . Donohue , given the 10 years since his twin ’ s birth , can reconstruct the details with such fluidity and depth . Again , leaning into his strength of deftly reflecting complex events onto humorous life anecdotes , Mr . Donohue sums up the toll that months in the NICU took on his family , his marriage and his own psychological health by writing an exceptional description of that place , renaming it “ Crazytown .” He writes , “ It is not a place you want to live . It ’ s a place that lures you in with delusions of grandeur but then takes your sanity as a sick form of compensation .” He writes further , “ Some were born and raised there . Others passed through with an intention of staying only a short while but ended up staking a claim to land and planting roots .”
On an early visit to this preternatural town and with a desire to catch the first flight out , he worked with the staff in the NICU to arrange the first holding of his twins by their mother . This complex feat was accomplished , for the simple joy of the first maternal-child touch , some 2 1 / 2 two and a half weeks after their birth . The event was capped by twin Owen reaching over and grabbing the hand , “ ever so slightly ,” of his twin brother Jacob . The recollection of this event provides the reader with some hope , similar to the regeneration of their parents ’ spirits , for Jacob and Owen .
In life , we look for signs , reading of the tea leaves , or guidance from a higher power , and those experiencing medical trauma are often looking with the most desperate of eyes . The NICU stay for twins Jacob and Owen eventually diverges with Owen going home and Jacob remaining in the NICU enduring multiple complications , ultimately from an inability to handle his secretions . Mr . Donohue ’ s
BOOK REVIEW anxiety and despair reach an apex as a tracheostomy surgery for Jacob looms . During the sleepless night prior , Mr . Donohue finds himself wrestling with the decision to proceed with the surgery and at a zenith of his emotional despair . He leaves home for a run and finds himself eventually in the nave of St . Agnes Catholic Church at the ungodly hour of 2:28 a . m . He writes , comparing his own patience to that of the Biblical Job , “ After all , I ’ d been reaching out to God for months and all I was getting in return was radio silence . I couldn ’ t handle being ignored anymore .” As he sat down in the darkened church he realized someone else was in the Nave praying quietly . The figure turned , some minutes later , to leave and says , while walking by , “ Good luck .” Despite , and maybe because of , being chronically sleep deprived and in a moment of intense emotional distress , Mr . Donohue had an epiphany in realizing that what lay ahead was just that , luck . The fate of his very ill son , he now understood , “ had already been determined ,” with or without a tracheostomy . He understood then that there was no “ right ” decision . This epiphany and subsequent new direction in care laid the groundwork for the closing chapters in the book .
Left When Nothing Goes Right is Mr . Donohue ’ s first foray into full length , adult writing , having previously published a children ’ s book , Flapjack Jane , inspired by his third child , Jane . Mr . Donohue speaks throughout his memoir often and lovingly about his other three children , Drew , Lucy and Jane . All three children , shepherded by their parents , persevere throughout Jacob ’ s and Owen ’ s struggles and become a respite for their parents . Lucy provides one of the more poignant moments as the memoir comes to a close , a time when both Jacob and Owen have been released home from the NICU . She tells her father that she speaks to Jacob and Owen in her dreams and “ tells them to stay strong .” She recounts one dream to her father where she saw Jacob and her late great grandmother sitting in a rocking chair smiling and laughing . When asked where Owen was in the dream , she replies that he wasn ’ t there . Lucy foreshadows for the reader , much as a “ warning shot ” given to a patient before delivering difficult news , the empyrean path that lay ahead for Jacob .
As Jacob ’ s condition declines , the tone shifts to solemnity with Mr . Donohue ’ s family gathering in a remarkable show of devotion , each member holding Jacob in turn . Mr . Donohue ’ s memoir is one of intense parental love and also one of great loss . It is not only a reminder of what patients and their families often endure , but , in its intimacy , it also allows readers to experience some of the emotions involved . Mr . Donohue and his wife traversed an onerous path , but their story is a testament to the indefatigable love of a parent for their children . There are few other stories of perseverance that can match . Dr . Kolter is a practicing internist with Baptist Health .