To the editors:
“Confessions of a Baby Saver” by Gina Shepard [June 15] concludes with some profound questions. I do not pretend to have all of the answers, maybe none of the answers, but I can offer some insight. I too, have experienced the world of neo-natal intensive care, as a parent of a pre-mature infant. Last year my son was born nine weeks premature weighing just 3 3/4 pounds and spent the first several weeks of his life in a unit exactly like that, perhaps the same one, described by Shepard.
As foreboding as the preemie world may be to an experienced health care professional such as Shepard think how much more so it is for anxious unprepared parents who have no medical experience, think of how frightening it must be for the preemies themselves with no experience of any kind thrust into a world of pain, struggling to breathe and to stay alive.
I have seen the same babies described by Shepard. I have also met their parents, those fortunate like I whose children survived and others whose children did not. I will share with you what we have all learned.
In the preemie world life is lived by the moment since we don’t know how many there will be. We panic at the sound of an alarm indicating that the baby has stopped breathing (apnea) or that the heart has stopped (bradycardia). Our hearts sink when there is a setback. Our spirits soar over such accomplishments as not regurgitating food fed through a tube down the nose, the first appearance of some fecal matter indicating some function of the digestive system or a one gram weight gain. We cry and we do laugh. We come to know and love that tiny person in the incubator, and, it is mutual. Research has proven that preemies thrive when held by their parents; the survival rate of those nurtured far exceeds those who are not. It breaks your heart that you can only hold the baby for about ten minutes before it must be returned to the incubator but during that time you know that this moment of comfort and love is the measure of life.
Ms. Shepard presents certain criteria for resuscitation of a baby, including: the probability of survival, costs and the impact on the future of the human race.
It was only by the extraordinary efforts in years past to save 8 week premature babies that the skills and technology were developed to save my 9 week premature son who is now healthy and normal. We may not be able to save many 12 week premature babies, but as we continue to try we send home more and more healthy 10 and 11 week preemies.
We cannot simply say that it is nature’s way or God’s will to let these babies die as long as humans have been given the intelligence to devise a way to save them. It is the highest and best use of this intelligence, and that we save them is what truly marks the advancement of the human race.
Frank Edward Gardner Sr.