Kathy's Reviews > Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir

Immortal Bird by Doron Weber
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's review
Mar 23, 2012

it was ok
Read in January, 2012

This is a sobering look at what can go wrong when patients' families clash with a powerful medical system. It's the story of adults behaving badly and a child suffering because of it.
This book disturbed me greatly, not only because of the actions of some in the medical profession which were reprehensible; but because of the actions of Damon's own father. Weber was constantly dropping names and expecting preferential treatment ("My friend and mentor Art Singer offers to call up Nobelist Eric Kandel, a Columbia star, and have him put in a word for Damon"). Weber frequently demanded that doctors who happened to be a "friend of a friend's" drop in on Damon's hospital room, even though these doctors were not involved in Damon's case and could offer no help. Weber frequently got into shouting matches with doctors within Damon's earshot, once causing his naked son to rise from his intensive care bed and come to the defense of his father.
What disturbed me the most was Weber's callous indifference to the heart donor and his/her family. Weber states in one section "I once upset Damon by joking we had to wait for the right person to croak before he could get his new heart." Even after Damon received the heart transplant Weber never acknowledged one thought of gratitude towards the donor and/or the donor's family. Never once did he give a thought to the life of the donor! Not one perfunctory "thank you." I can understand why he may not have later when Damon wasn't doing well, but immediately post transplant Damon was doing well. Seems like many fathers of a young transplant recipient would have given some thought or thanks to the donor's family. Weber refers to the donor heart as a creature and a thing; he calls it a marvel of human engineering. He does not refer to it as an organ that came from a recently deceased person who had the selfless courage to donate his organs. Throughout the book Weber demonstrated an astonshing inflated sense of entitlement!
But I do agree that "even when the doctors and nurses are first rate, as scores are, the system often conspires against them. And when they are less than first-rate, as far too many turn out to be, they can pose a threat to the patient, which must be defended against at all times." I truly believe that Weber went about defending against incompetence in all the wrong ways. It's so sad to read of the suffering his son and family endured. This was just a sad, senseless story on so many levels.
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message 1: by Julie (last edited Sep 12, 2012 09:47AM) (new)

Julie Yes! As a transplant recipient I was put off by his callousness/joking about someone "croaking" so Damon could get a heart. Hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys do not come from manufacturers. These organs come from families who have, most likely, tragically lost their family member and want to help someone else in the midst of their grief. These people don't die of old age they usually are killed in a tragic accident of some kind. Very humbling.

Kathy Thanks for commenting on my review and I'm sorry I didn't catch it sooner. I'm glad the review resonated with you. Hope you're doing well post transplant!

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