Young patients' heart-rending lessons
<B>Young patients' heart-rending lessons</B>Don't even think of starting this brief but beautiful book without a box of tissues at your elbow. You've got a lot of crying ahead. <B>If I Get To Five</B> takes its title from the sayings of a four-year-old girl, Naomi, whom author Fred Epstein was treating for a brain cancer. "If I get to five," the little girl would tell him, "I'm going to learn to ride a two-wheeler!" Or "If I get to five, I'm going to learn to tie my shoes with a double-knot!"Epstein, who established the Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery (INN) at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, tells story after story of children he came to know as he was trying to save their lives. But this is more than a maudlin exercise in recollection. It is at bottom a recitation of what he has learned from dealing with these incredibly resilient children and how surroundings and attitudes can contribute to the healing process. Initially, Epstein confesses, he placed virtually all his faith in medical technology and his ability to refine and manipulate it. However, a poem from one of his young patients one who didn't survive made him realize that imparting a feeling of love, understanding and acceptance was as vital as having and mastering all the best surgical tools. Armed with this new-found wisdom, Epstein says he designed a hospital the INN that would take the children's feelings and wishes into account, a hospital with a resident clown, around-the-clock visiting hours, parties in the patients' rooms and impromptu ball games in the halls. Running parallel to Epstein's tales about his patients is an account of his own bumpy life and what it has taught him about healing. An academic underachiever, afflicted with dyslexia, depression and self-doubt, Epstein at first seemed an unlikely candidate to become a medical doctor, much less a distinguished one. But in witnessing the power of his own determination to change predicted outcomes, he became aware of that same potential power in others. It is no slight to call <B>If I Get To Five</B> a "feel-good" book. It is. But, after all, isn't feeling good what medicine is supposed to be about?