Upstate News

January 20, 2004
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Pediatrician’s book on courageous children to benefit Central New York Children’s Hospital

In his nearly-60 year career, Frederick Roberts, M.D., an 84 year-old pediatrician from Syracuse, N.Y., has cared for more than 300,000 children, most of them in robust health. But not all. In his new book, “Children Courageous and Their Families” (North Country Books, 2003, $15), Roberts tells the stories of 23 families and their children, who from the very first cry fought the odds of illness and disease.

“I don’t think there is any greater tribute to humanity than a parent’s love for an imperfect child,” said Roberts. “I have been touched in a special way by all of my patients, but especially these children, who face an uncertain future with what can be insurmountable health problems.”

As the title implies, the book is about courageous children and their families. It is not about diseases or medical miracles. “Doctors get credit all the time for saving lives, curing disease, but it’s these special patients and their families and others like them who are the true heroes of medicine,” he said.

In “Children Courageous and their Families,” Roberts dedicates each chapter to one of his patients and takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions as he recalls his visits with patient and family.

A chapter devoted to the Atwater family tells of their premature son who overcame respiratory infections, seizures, surgeries and numerous hospitalizations to donate life-saving bone marrow to his older brother. Roberts discusses a mother’s concern for a fussy, unwell, under-weight baby and then dispair when the symptoms lead to a diagnosis of cerebral gigantism. But like many vignettes in Roberts book, this medical nightmare turns into a story of courage and perseverance as the special needs baby grows up and is selected to carry the torch in the Olympics.

Not all of Roberts’ patients beat the odds of their difficult birth. In a chapter titled “Ronaldo,” Roberts writes of a mother’s endless care and devotion for her premature baby. The child, beset by respiratory problems, was a regular visitor to the emergency room. But at home his mother provided the medical care, dispensing vitamin drops, iron medication and prednisone while monitoring the trach tube, oxygen tanks and apnea monitors that kept him alive. “He was oxygen dependent, steroid dependent, and most of all, mother dependent. This full-time task was accepted without complaint, at least to me,” Roberts writes. “Every time I saw Ronaldo, he was immaculately dressed and his mother knew every detail of his medical routine.

“There was no miracle. Her strength and love were not enough,” he writes. “She treasured every day and when the end came we all bid Ronaldo goodbye, and knew that, for her, there were no regrets.

Proceeds from “Children Courageous and Their Families” will will help support the Central New York Children’s Hospital at University Hospital. Plans for the $34 million children’s hospital, which would be housed on the top two floors of a six-story addition to University Hospital, call for 50 private patient rooms, family sleep, dining and support areas, among other amenities. The Central New York Children’s Hospital would more than triple the amount of space currently available for pediatric care at University Hospital. Opening for the Children’s Hospital is set for December 2007.

To order a copy of “Children Courageous and Their Families” or for more information on the Central New York Children’s Hospital, call the Upstate Medical University Foundation at 315-464-KIDS.

[b]Editors: For a review copy, call Darryl Geddes at 315-464-4828.[/b]

About the author

Frederick Roberts has been a pediatrician in Syracuse, N.Y., since 1945, having earned his medical degree from the Syracuse University School of Medicine, which today is SUNY Upstate Medical University. He is credited with launching the Central New York’s first cystic fibrosis clinic and has received numerous awards for his teaching and clinical work. In 1996, he opened a practice for underprivileged children. Roberts still sees patients today and estimates that he has seen between 300,000 and 400,000 children in his nearly 60-year career.

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