The First Breath Book Review

30th May 2019

The First Breath is a brilliant, deeply researched book
around the giant leaps medicine has taken in saving incredibly fragile and sick
babies. Olivia, after her own experience of a neonatal unit with her son, bravely
went across the world to in search of unique medical cases where a baby /
family would need neonatal care, she interviewed some of the world’s leading
clinicians as well as returning to the neonatal unit which cared for her son. The
book has you gripped as you live each emotion with the families who are placed
in situations no parent wishes to face, if you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘the
NICU is like a roller coaster’ this book perfectly demonstrates that. On the
flip side, Olivia takes the stories of the staff, and shares their tenacity to
do all they can for Neonatal babies. My favourite is that of a doctor talking
softly to a baby who needed intubating and comforting them as they worked to
stabilise. It’s those moments parents don’t forget and reminds us of the beauty
of care which is given in a NICU. Olivia takes on a double role in the book,
one of a NICU mother and one of a researcher who becomes heavily integrated in
the care teams in various hospital settings – something I found fascinating.  Many of us grow such strong bonds with those
who care for our babies and I think there’s always that element of wishing to be
part of the team. I managed to live vicariously through her researcher role in
the book.

Olivia is superbly eloquent in the story of her son, Joel,
and the impact being a neonatal parent had on her. The book highlights
beautifully the gaping chasm between pioneering medical treatment and the
long-lasting impact this has on all of those involved in the neonatal pathway.
It’s there in black and white and is backed up by leading neonatal psychologist
Rebecca Chilvers, more care needs to happen across the board.

The First Breath is an incredibly insightful book which is perfect for anyone working in neonates, wishing to work in neonates and those of us parents who have walked through the double doors to a NICU.


Leo's Neonatal

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