Kindle edition is only 99¢ through May 26, 2017.
Publisher Sandra Jonas Publishing House
Kindle edition is only 99¢ through May 26, 2017.
“Without doubt, one of the most moving and memorable memoirs I have ever read.”—Marilyn, Goodreads
After his birth, Howard Shulman contracted an infection that ate half his face, a tragedy made all the more horrific when his parents abandoned him at the hospital. In his memoir, he shares the unforgettable journey he took to find his place in the world, going from a bullied outcast in foster care to a successful entrepreneur and family man. Filled with heart-wrenching suffering as well as soul-lifting joy, this book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Three days after his birth, a perfect baby, the carrier of his young parents’ dreams and ambitions, became what some would call a monster. Like ants on honey, a bacterial infection consumed his face—and as quickly as his face disappeared, so did his mother and father. The newborn his parents had been prepared to take home and raise as their beloved son was no longer the child they had the courage to claim.
I was that baby.
Despite their valiant efforts, the doctors, with their arsenal of antibiotics, could not push back the bacteria’s devastating aggression. When it finally ran its course, my nose, lower right eyelid, tear ducts, lips, and palate had been eaten away, leaving behind a gaping hole.
Though they lasted so briefly, I can’t help but imagine the joyful first days of my life. It’s July 17, 1961, and I see my father, filled with youthful optimism, tapping his knuckle against the nursery window. Nodding, the nurse retrieves me from my bassinet and carries me to where he waits, his smile widening at the sight of me.
Reluctantly he turns away and heads down the brightly lit corridor to my mother’s room, passing on his way a stream of immaculately starched nurses, who smile at his tell-tale strut of new fatherhood. At his wife’s door, he uprights the bouquet of yellow roses he carries and, seeing that she is sleeping, quietly crosses to her bedside. He hesitates, then bends down to press a kiss to her forehead. Her eyes, heavy with sleep, open.
“Hello,” he murmurs.
“Have you seen him?” she asks, her words slurred.
“Yes. He’s perfect. Get some rest now.”
When he stops by the following day, he finds my mother propped up in bed holding the bundle that is me, a look of contentment on her face. Smiling, she hands me to my father, who cradles me in his arms. “Howard. Howard! Hello, my son.”
On the third day in my anti–fairy tale, as my dad prepares to leave his office to visit his wife and baby, the phone rings.
“Mr. Shulman, I’m calling about your son.” The doctor’s voice is grave. “You need to get to the hospital immediately.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“I’ll explain when I see you.”
“Please tell my wife I’m on my way.”
Oblivious to the blare of midday horns or the route he travels, my father maneuvers his car through traffic, his mind on nothing but the chilling tone of the doctor’s words. His panic mounts, and he speeds toward the hospital.
Out of breath, he pauses in the doorway of his wife’s room, unaware that the fear he sees in her face is mirrored in his own. In two swift strides, he is at her side and reaches for her hand. She begs him to do something, anything, to make whatever is wrong right again.
A faint knock announces the doctor. His jaw is tense, his eyes serious. “Your son has contracted a staph infection in his face,” he says. “He’s a sick little baby right now, but I want to assure you we’re doing everything we can.”
In the movie I carry in my head, I’m a healthy, robust baby nursing contentedly, the familiar rhythm of my mother’s heart and sound of her voice lulling me to sleep. All is well with my world, and then, in one unmistakable shift—just as I am getting used to lights and startling noises, to alien air and strange materials assaulting my skin—I have a growing sense that something is very wrong.
Suddenly my face is on fire, and I am swallowed up in pain. My shuddering cries, garbled by fluids pouring from my nose and mouth, leave me gasping for breath. Sharp, biting jabs pierce my veins, and tubes ravage my throat. Where is my mother? Where is she? Surely she must know I need her. Why doesn’t she come? Doesn’t she hear me? Can’t she feel my suffering?
I scream and scream and scream until only exhaustion quiets me. My mother is gone and will not return, leaving me adrift on a raft of pain so unbearable that all I can do is shut down.
Even before any capacity for thought has formed, I know my world has shattered.
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