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Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries And Triumphs In The Newborn ICU
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Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries And Triumphs In The Newborn ICU

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States every year. In this gripping medical narrative, Dr. Adam Wolfberg brings readers into the complex world of newborn intensive care, where brilliant but imperfect doctors do all they can to coax life into their tiny, injured patients. As a specialist in high-risk obstetrics and the father of a child born prematu ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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adam wolfberg was an OB resident when his wife went into premature labor & gave birth to their third daughter at only 26 weeks gestation. so he occupied the confusing space of being the devastated father of a micro-preemie facing any number of health complications (including a stage four brain bleed, which usually leads to catastrophic brain damage), & a doctor who had some idea what he was actually looking at. you'd think this would make for a uniquely compelling story, but unfortunatel ...more
Mar 11, 2012 Darryl rated it really liked it
Adam Wolfberg was an OB-GYN intern at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital when his wife, Kelly, was pregnant with their third child, a girl who would be named Larissa. Her previous two pregnancies were uneventful, and all indicators pointed to another straightforward one. However, Kelly suddenly developed contractions when Larissa reached 26 weeks of gestation, 14 weeks before her due date. Despite the Wolfbergs' proximity to one of the leading obstetric and neonatal centers in the world, Kel ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Moira rated it liked it
I recently read Adam Wolfberg's Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU (2012) and I found it to be, not a bad book, but an odd book. Wolfberg is a doctor and a medical researcher, but in the book he uses the experience of his own daughter, who was born premature, as a framing device. Reading the book, I got the sense that either Wolfberg and his editor has very different ideas about the book, and/or that Wolfberg was uncomfortable sharing his families' experience. I susp ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
The writing is a bit clunky, for all that the author was a journalist before he went to med school, and the personal aspect of his story is slightly incoherent in places. I’m not sure whether that’s the result of inadequate emotional processing or inadequate editing. On the other hand, he gives a nice history of neonatology – (so young! I didn’t realize the first surfactants weren’t approved for use until 1991. 1991!). Because his daughter (she was a 26-weeker) had a grade 4 IVH, he does a fair ...more
Jun 02, 2012 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical
I'm loving this. A really good medical story is just about my favorite thing in the whole world. I temporarily set aside Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) because I could not wait to read this. Medicine trumps fantasy! Truth is stranger than fiction - that's my motto.

The author is a doctor whose own daughter was born at 26 weeks. This fascinating story covers the physical, intellectual and emotional issues that surround the treatment and care of such extremely premature babies. I learned so much f
Carl R.
Mar 13, 2012 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
The story of Dr. and Mrs. Wolfberg's harrowing experience with the birth of their premature daughter is one that will tug at anyone's heartstrings, parent or not. The difficulty of the situation must have been nearly overwhelming at times yet Dr. Wolfberg has turned that experience into the opportunity to furnish us with not only his personal story but a well-researched examination into the state of NICU care today and its future going forward.

What struck me most about this book was the situatio
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Oct 06, 2013 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-14
When I started this book I was fascinated to the extreme. The treatment of premie babies, the challenges and decisions and precision of needle-sharp skills required to keep them alive and growing outside the safe womb--it was impossible to put down. The historical passages were illuminating; the descriptions of the medical procedures fascinating; the progress of development of a baby's independent life systems, from lungs to temperature regulation to the all critical phases of brain development ...more
May 31, 2015 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine
I would recommend the book "Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries And Triumphs In The Newborn ICU" by Adam Wolfberg, particularly to physicians who care for children with neurologic disabilities. Wolfberg is an OB whose wife gave birth to a 26 week preemie at BWH during his intern year, and he writes about his experiences in the NICU and subsequently with his daughter's therapies and development. He includes some background on the history of NICU care and neuroplasticity research, and I think it gives ...more
Mina MacLeod
Jun 26, 2015 Mina MacLeod rated it liked it
This was a heartrending read. I've always been empathic and sensitive to stories involving children or animals--but since becoming a mother, that empathy has multiplied a thousandfold. However powerful the core of the story is, the writing style does not bolster it. The tale is more research than personal narrative, and maybe the author's background has something to do with that. Nonetheless, it's a true story that will make you ache inside; very powerful.
Emily Shaver
Mar 15, 2014 Emily Shaver rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: medical students
Recommended to Emily by: HOSA
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 09, 2013 Jen rated it it was ok
Shelves: medical-nf
This book isn't what I hoped it would be. Wolfberg focuses more on the medical aspects of the story, including the development of the Brigham and Women's NICU and the research being done on CP, than he does on what it is like as a father of a baby in the NICU. Should I have expected this from the title? Yes, and I did know that it wasn't all his story, but I did hope he would tie his own experiences into the book more seamlessly. This book has a great deal of physiology and medical terminology ( ...more
May 16, 2012 Zoe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Library book, actual pages.
This book is amazing - a perfect combination of research, journalism and personal experience. Having been through the NICU circus (twice) there was much that was familiar in his descriptions of NICU culture. There were unexpected moments when a sob would escape me before I even realized I was crying. The theme of parental rights and who does this baby actually belong to, me or the hospital, were very familiar. There was so much history of neonatal care that was new to
Tricia Stream
Jun 02, 2012 Tricia Stream rated it liked it
Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU is not an easy read.

Told from the perspective of Dr. Adam Wolfberg, both a perinatologist and preemie dad, the pages are filled with emotional triggers to send me back to my own NICU experience. His daughter, Larissa, was born at 26 weeks when her mother suddenly went into labor. She then suffered a Grade IV brain bleed. (Larissa, not her mom.)
Brian Cole
Jun 27, 2012 Brian Cole rated it really liked it
This is a personal story about how the author (a physician) and his wife (a psychologists?) undergo the heart rending experience of giving birth to a premature baby. It tells of their time in the nicu and of their dughters trials to achieve the benchmarks in childhood like riding a bike. Sometimes the nicu experience ends in a tragedy. The nurses are the key. Exactly how I like my science books--facts and anecdotes interwoven around a personal story.
Jun 03, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
This was a thought-provoking, well-balanced book about medical advances. The author provides the perfect mix of narrative along with scientific tidbits to keep the book flowing. He describes ethical issues without hyperbole. As modern science advances and keeps people alive longer, our society needs more authors like Dr. Wolfberg who can look at all sides of an issue and are not afraid to tackle tough issues.
May 09, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
This was a well-written book with insights from the author's own life (he is a pediatric fellow whose youngest daughter was born at 26 weeks and spent significant time in the nicu) as well as readable explanations of concepts in neurology such as neuroplasticity and constraint-induced movement therapy. I would not recommend this book if you are currently pregnant as it's pretty intense reading.
Jenni V.
Aug 08, 2012 Jenni V. rated it it was ok
I was absorbed in the first 2 chapters, then it went downhill as the author reverted from his experience as a father back to his medical background, causing the book to read like a clinical study. Not the book I expected.
Jun 18, 2012 Megan rated it it was ok
It was ok, a bit dry. I thought there would be more description of the day-to-day NICU life. Some of the medical terminology was way over my head even though I am usually pretty interested in medical stories.
Amanda Racanelli
Oct 08, 2013 Amanda Racanelli rated it really liked it
Wonderfully and personally written, yet scientific at the same time. Even though I read this for work; I found myself enjoying each page of heart-warming triumphs this family went through with their 26-weeker!
Haley Burden
Dec 17, 2013 Haley Burden rated it it was amazing
This book... Oh gosh just thinking about it makes me tear up.
I can't explain that this book is so life changing you just must read it.
Love love love love love love love love love love love love love
Jun 03, 2012 kelly rated it really liked it
I know it is about the author's experience with the NICU - but I wish he had been able to follow up with other babies born at that time a little more thoroughly....
Sep 27, 2012 Tracy rated it liked it
A little disjointed and I wanted more of the author's own story of his daughter's prematurity but a good look at the history and scientific developments of NICUs.
Mar 26, 2012 Meg added it
It had a lot of interesting scientific discussion, but it started very personal, then jumped around as to what was happening w/ his preemie daughter....
Oct 07, 2013 Shannon rated it really liked it
Great insight to the world of premature babies and their parents! I learned quite a bit from this book!
Noble Gill
Jul 30, 2012 Noble Gill rated it liked it
Fascinating story with lots of information about preemie medicine.
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Dr. Adam Wolfberg is an obstetrician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine. His clinical interests include prenatal diagnosis, fetal ultrasound, and preterm labor. Dr. Wolfberg's clinical research on fetal EKG analysis is funded by the National Institutes of Health ...more
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