Anybody’s Miracle [Book Review]

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Laura Hercher, after reading her book, Anybody’s Miracle.  Laura is a genetic counselor and instructor
at Sarah Lawrence College Joan H. Mark’s Human Genetics Program.  

Anybody’s Miracle
is a great read for anyone that has experienced infertility and sought
treatment for it or anyone interested in learning more about the many different
ways families are built. It is a fictional story that follows multiple families
on their journey to parenthood.  She
brings us through the adoption process, a perilous IVF treatment, family
building for same sex couples and even through the beauty and complexities of embryo
donation. The whole time we are all rooting for the unexpectedly entwined
characters, as they endure the challenges and joys of all of these scenarios.

Her deep insight into the often misunderstood emotional
journey of someone going through infertility and all of the challenges it
presents made me wonder if she had experienced it herself. To my surprise she
had not! 

The idea for the book came about after she spoke with a good friend of
hers who was working with patients who were donating their embryos in a clinic
in NYC. Her friend, also a genetic counselor, was just supposed to get basic medical
information from the patients.  But, she
often found herself helping them with the ethical and emotional struggles that
could arise from doing IVF. When her friend started asking one patient the
typical questions regarding her medical history, this woman, who was a devout Catholic,
started crying. The patient knew there was no hope for her to use her remaining
embryos, but she did not want them to be destroyed. The clinic had no options
for donating patient embryos and having an open relationship with the
recipients. The woman was donating knowing she would never know for sure if a
child or children were going to be born from her remaining embryos or what
families the child or children would be born to.

Laura found this patient scenario intriguing and appreciated
all of the complexities of the situation. She also felt that there are very few
of us who do not know someone who has experienced infertility or know a same
sex couple who would need the help of a third party to build a family. She
wanted to shed light on all of the new ways to create a family and felt that
their stories weren’t always being told in a realistic and compassionate way.
Although all of the medical situations in the story are based on factual
science and Laura’s expertise as a genetic counselor shines through, the book
is accessible to readers of all educational backgrounds.

I asked Laura what is new and exciting in the genetic field – she said the field has changed so much since the days where genetic testing
meant testing the paternity of a baby! 
In the near future, non-invasive pre-natal screening will be available.
By submitting a simple blood test in the first 8-9 weeks, doctors will be able
to interpret more things about the health of the fetus to include whether or
not the baby has Down syndrome or some of the other Trisomy genetic disorders.
Eventually, as genetic testing improves, she believes we will be able to learn
many things about a fetus as early as 8-9 weeks, if we choose to go down that
path!

Laura feels that scientists and technology zoom ahead with
advances without considering the ethical questions that patients may struggle
with when they are able to receive the information these tests will bring. Part
of Laura’s job as a genetic counselor is figuring out how these advances affect
people in real life. She asks the question, “How can this help/hurt/work for
people?”

I recommend reading, Anybody’s
Miracle and putting faces and stories to some of these ethical
questions.  Laura does an excellent job
of presenting all viewpoints in the book so much so what you assumed you may
think or feel initially may not be your viewpoint after finishing the book! 

Anybody’s Miracle, by Laura Hercher, is available from Amazon

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