cover image Baby Er: The Heroic Doctors and Nurses Who Perform Medicine's Tiniest Miracles

Baby Er: The Heroic Doctors and Nurses Who Perform Medicine's Tiniest Miracles

Edward Humes / Author Simon & Schuster $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-6

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Humes (Mean Justice; etc.) spent a year observing life inside the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. In this heart-stopping account of medical prowess, triumph and tragedy, Humes writes about 11 critically ill premature babies (seven of whom survive). According to the author, premature births are on the rise for a number of reasons, including the wide use of fertility treatments, which have resulted in many more high-risk premature multiple births. Many premature births, however, are unanticipated; in some cases, it is unclear why they occur, while in others, a mother's drug addiction or undetected genetic disorder plays a role. The author portrays both the commitment and skill of the medical professionals who perform technologically advanced surgical and treatment miracles on newborns who often cannot eat or breathe on their own, singling out the indispensable role of the overworked and underpaid neonatal nurses, who provide not only physical care to infants, but also emotional support to the parents. Humes is also clear about the economic realities of neonatology, ""a growth business""--which he attributes to insurance companies' fear of denying coverage in the face of negative publicity and huge public support for this special and specialized area of medicine--and NICUs' resulting profitability, ""which is why they are being scarfed up by Wall Street medical conglomerates."" Readers who are drawn to tales of medical emergencies and victories will take to this title. There will be a 20-city radio satellite tour and local publicity in southern California, where the author resides. (Nov.)