Sunday, February 05, 2012

Brother To Dragons 1-5 - Charles Sheffield

""Little boy," she said softly. "You're so tiny, and so frail."

"That's not the worst." Brisbane waved his pen at the display. "See, that's what I was afraid of."

Weight at the fifth percentile for full-term delivery. The computer was integrating the reports made by the doctor with prior information on the mother and its own telemetry data of the child's condition. Length at the tenth percentile. X-rays reveal ribcage defects, malformation of jaw and dental structures, incomplete development of lungs. Liver, heart, and kidney abnormalities. Diminished retinal sensitivity. Prenatal cocaine addiction symptoms. Immediate postnatal survival probability, nine percent. Long-term survival probability, two percent. Mammal life expectancy, thirty-one years plus or minus three years.

"He's a total mess." The excitement of life snatched from death had died away. She was exhausted, reaction was setting in, and she was close to tears. A thousand healthy births could not take away the pain of a single sick baby. "You say you give me credit for this one—credit for what? He's ailing and weak, and doomed at birth. If everything went perfectly, he'd not live much past thirty."

"Christ was dead at thirty-three. So was Alexander the Great. How much more do you want him to do in the world?"

Still she was not listening. "Why do we do it?—drag the poor babies into the world, fight to save them, breathe life in them, operate on them—when even before we start we know they can't live a normal life, maybe can't live for an hour. Why do we bother?"

"You're tired out, Eileen." He took her gently by the arm. "We're not gods. Just medics. It's our job to save lives. That's all we can do, all we ought to do.""

4 out of 5