4 out of 4 stars
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Voiceless Child by Ann Widick Giganti is the inspiring true story about Ann and Jim, an ordinary couple, who decide to welcome a child with special needs into their family.
The story begins with Ann going to visit her friend’s sick baby in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). While she is there, Ann’s attention is drawn to another infant in the ward - a frail, floppy little girl, dressed in pink, with obvious breathing problems. Ann learns that this child is Heather, a 14-month old who was born prematurely. Heather has extensive airway damage from being on a ventilator following her birth and now, to assist her breathing, she has a tracheotomy (a tube placed directly into her windpipe through her neck). This also prevents her from making verbal sounds. Due to the complexity of Heather’s medical needs, and the subsequent abandonment by her biological mother, Heather has resided in the PICU her entire life. Each time Ann visits the hospital she sees this silent, expressionless child. Heather does not smile, move her limbs or show any signs of interaction with the staff or her environment. Ann is told that Heather may be blind, deaf or brain-damaged. She knows Heather will probably be placed in an institution. Realistically, Ann does not give too much thought to Heather’s predicament. Then, one visit, the briefest second of eye contact occurs between the pair. In that fleeting moment, their fates are sealed. Ann’s heart melts, and she becomes determined to provide this little girl with what she deserves: parents, a home, unconditional love and the best possible chance in life.
From this point on, the reader is taken on Ann and Jim’s rollercoaster journey as they first traverse the foster and adoption system, and then later, the medical system. With so many obstacles in their path, Ann openly shares the family’s fears, frustrations, challenges, commitments, sacrifices, decisions, and elations. Did Ann really see potential in those few seconds of eye contact? Can Ann and Jim’s dream of hearing Heather speak really come true? Just how far will someone go to try to give a child a voice?
There are several aspects of this story I really like. While Heather’s journey plays a significant role in this book, other issues and relationships, both within the family and the wider community, are discussed with equal detail and importance. Ann’s career, and her obvious dedication to it, also makes interesting reading. I particularly enjoyed experiencing Ann and Jim’s interactions with various health professionals. These are vast and varied, ranging from situations where there is blatant disregard for the family’s experiences and wishes, through to doctor-patient relationships based on mutual respect. Ann provides a very realistic portrayal of both the flaws and miracles of the American healthcare system.
I also like the presence of both photographs and diagrams, strategically placed throughout the book. Pictures of Heather makes the story even more personal for the reader, as do photographs of both the family unit and medical staff. Additionally, the inclusion of diagrams helps people to visualise some of the medical procedures being performed.
Presented in chronological order, the entirety of this book, except for one chapter, is told in the first-person perspective from Ann’s point of view. The other chapter is written by Heather’s friend to ensure the details at this point in time are correct. I feel this inclusion reflects how important it is to the author that Heather’s story be told as completely and accurately as possible.
I am unable to identify anything I did not like about this story. Overall, this book is well written. Considering the volume of medical investigations, procedures, and treatments discussed in this book, the terminology used is generally simple and easy to understand. I did note that, on very rare occasions, words are used which may be unfamiliar to people without a background in health. One example is when Ann refers to Heather as the ‘pulmonary kid’ in the first chapter. Some readers may not have come across the word ‘pulmonary’ as a term used to refer to the lungs. In most situations, however, the medical terminology is used with either simple explanations or diagrams. I did note seven errors within the book, but these do not unduly interrupt the flow of the story. Other than this, Voiceless Child appears professionally edited.
I chose this book to review as, being both a nurse and midwife, I have a special interest in stories about children born with health issues. It is stories such as this one that fills me with hope and reminds me that miracles can happen with a lot of persistence, commitment and determination I have no hesitation in rating this book 4 out of 4 stars.
I would highly recommend this book to health professionals, parents of children with special medical needs, and people who either have, or are considering, fostering or adopting a child. This book provides a wealth of information from a personal level and would be a fantastic resource for such people.
I would also recommend this book to individuals who enjoy non-fiction reads about life experiences. This inspirational story about one family’s unwavering strength and courage should appeal to anyone who has faced some of life’s challenges. You definitely do not need a medical background to appreciate all this book has to offer, however, people who are uncomfortable with reading about medical procedures may have difficulty with some aspects of this book.
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