I sort of stumbled across Miracle at Coney Island. I was browsing the Kindle Single options on my phone, looking for something short but not necessarily a popcorn read, and this was incredibly fascinating. I’d never heard of Couney, much like Prentice who discovered the incubator babies while researching another book, but he saved thousands of children over the course of a 40 year career.
Should anyone need proof that a preemie could grow up to be just like any other member of society, Couney pointed to Hildegarde, who had arrived in the world six weeks early, weighing just three pounds. Apparently oblivious to the sensitivities involved in discussing a woman’s weight, Couney told anyone who would listen that his daughter was now “a robust 135-pounder.”
In exchange for allowing Couney to display the preemie babies at various expos, like the World Fair, he would waive all medical expenses for parents and keep the babies until they were big enough to thrive on their own. His first operations were smaller but as his successes garnered more attention his facilities grew; at one point he had three different exhibits going simultaneously. He championed the use of wet nurses, believing Mother’s milk was best, and inadvertently discovered that exposure to light could treat jaundice in babies.
But Couney was not perfect; his show stopped being a monetary success in later years and eventually put him tens of thousands of dollars in debt. He was also not technically a doctor…
Either way this was a very interesting look at the precursor to the NICUs of today.