When All Becomes New is a collection of true stories from the often-hidden world of neonatal intensive care. It offers a doctor’s intimate reflections on life and medicine, the tension between faith and suffering, and how faith and hope can change the way we see the world. Ultimately, it tells the stories of everyday people thrust into great joys and challenges, into circumstances of life and love and loss.
The streets were desolate as I drove to the hospital. Wisps of fog crept out from the woods, licking the road. A doe stood half-hidden behind a loblolly pine, eyes unblinking, tawny antlers still as a branch in the streak of the headlights. I wondered how sick the baby was and whether I would be able to get him back to the hospital alive.
Only the first two stories of the large five-deck parking garage were occupied. Beyond the garage lay a college campus lined with oaks and dotted with Gothic-style buildings. At its heart a cathedral reached into the sky. Far above me on the roof, helicopter blades throbbed in the air. I stopped at the back door of the intensive care unit for tiny bags of blood pressure medication, a central line kit, and a chest tube kit. Continuing up the stairs, two at a time, I emerged out of breath on the rooftop helipad.
On the rooftop, the wind gusted up over the ridge of the building, safety nets strung around the periphery, constellations of demarcation lights, webbed steel walkways, the sleeping city unfolding below. The crew had already loaded the empty transport incubator and were finishing up the last checks when I arrived. I stuffed in earplugs, pulled on a helmet, and climbed into the cockpit. The pilot was going through the final checks and barely acknowledged me, his face glowing in the light of hundreds of tiny buttons and switches. Cropped white stubble grew from sun-weathered skin and even in the small cockpit he moved with a purposeful swagger that made me feel small and out of place. “Hot on one, hot on two, visual checks performed, ready for mission with four souls on board.”
In an instant the craft rose vertically before plunging off the lighted roofline into the dark. Beneath my feet I watched the old Gothic cathedral slip away. We tracked a beaded string of parallel lights far below until, for a moment, I was suspended fifteen hundred feet above my sleeping wife and children, looking down on my life, before being pulled away as we banked to the east.
Soon we left the city, flying over dark wooded areas and pastures with only occasional roads and lights. Out the domed front window, sparse clouds drifted under the moon. Below us lay a lake, its water still and inky. From the shallows, the lake crept onto the land, black fading into black. Minutes turned into miles with the droning of the motor, my loneliness and isolation building. Forty-five minutes passed and the line of the horizon imperceptibly became lighter as we peered into the precursor of the dawn.
Soon, miniature yellow lights threaded underneath and the pilot motioned to a three-story building. We crested a tree line and dropped onto a gray square fringed by a chain-link fence. Outside the window, the pulse of the blades flattened the tall grass and gauzy fog seeped over the tarmac.
Benjamin Rattray, DO, MBA, CPE, FAAP, is a newborn critical care physician in North Carolina where he serves as Associate Medical Director of Neonatal Intensive Care at the Cone Health Women’s and Children’s Center. He completed a pediatric residency and a neonatal-perinatal medicine fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, holds an MBA from LSU Shreveport, and is a CPE, Certified Physician Executive. He lives with his wife, three children, and a golden retriever in Greensboro, North Carolina.
When All Becomes New: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Love, and Loss
by Benjamin Rattray
Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers