Life cut short by a damaged heart
A pivotal moment in Immortal Bird occurs when the protagonist, adolescent Damon Weber, is playing a pick-up game of soccer with his family. After a lengthy scrimmage, his father, author Doron Weber, is ready to call it a day. His son becomes angry. There is a heated exchange, as the young Damon, filled with adrenaline, competiveness and rage, refuses to quit. “Why are we stopping?” Damon asks. “Let’s keep playing. I wanna play!” His father argues, but then gives up, overlooking Damon’s tantrum because the teenager has been through so many medical calamities since his birth, and faces more in the future. “I decide to refrain from further reprimand, because I wish to preserve that spirit,” Weber writes. “Even if it’s misplaced here, this fieriness will serve him well in future contests.”
Weber’s Immortal Bird is a love letter to his son, an account of Damon’s determination to fight a series of medical setbacks while fighting for his life. Damon was born without one of two ventricles that pump blood to and from the heart and lungs. He is missing the ventricle that pumps blood to the lungs to replenish oxygen and discharge carbon dioxide. By age four, Damon had already had two heart operations, the second a “modified Fontan,” which essentially replicates the work of the second ventricle. The surgery allows Damon to lead a relatively normal childhood, although he is smaller than most of his classmates. But he is smart, energetic and proves to be a gifted actor, performing Shakespeare and earning a small part on the HBO Western “Deadwood.”
Damon’s medical maladies are comparatively minor until he is diagnosed with PLE, an affliction related to his Fontan procedure that prevents him from keeping protein in his body. This results in an arduous journey in which Damon experiences many physical and emotional highs and lows, and ultimately, a heart transplant with traumatic side effects.
Immortal Bird is a heart-wrenching family memoir that describes the deep love between parent and child, while also celebrating the nobility and spirit of a boy who embraces life with a fiery passion.