Friday, July 9, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 123

Cast of Characters:
Paul: age 44
Mal: my wife
Adam: my son
Cassy: my daughter
Paul Dinsdale: a customer and friend
Christine Carelli: a customer and friend


Paul Dinsdale and Christine Carelli were both long-time customers and they had become good friends of mine through the store. Both collected comic books, but Paul was the “bigger” collector. He had started shopping at my store when he was a young kid and his enthusiasm for comic books grew over the years. He bought almost every comic book that DC Comics published and he also enjoyed most of the Marvel Comics. Paul came into the Worcester store a few days each week. He’d help us sort the new comic books, and do some general cleaning up while he visited with us. Christine came in once a week.

I had introduced them to each other and was instrumental in “setting them up” on their first date. They dated for a few years, “fell in love” and married in 1993. They even asked me to be in their wedding. We were all very excited in 1997 when Christine revealed that she was expecting twins!

About five months later, on September 22nd, the Dinsdales’ were changed forever, as their babies were born four months prematurely. Nicholas Dinsdale only weighed one pound, four and a half ounces and his twin brother, Daniel, was only slightly heavier. Both of these boys were in critical condition and required twenty-four hour care at the neonatal intensive care unit at Worcester’s Memorial Hospital. Although the doctors didn’t offer much hope, Paul and Christine had no choice but to trust the skilled medical staff to save the lives of their boys.

The two tiny babies struggled to stay alive. Paul and Christine spent many hours every day in the hospital by the boys’ bedside and did their best to maintain their work schedules. They were physically and emotionally exhausted all of the time. On December 1st, 1997, they got a phone call from a doctor in the middle of the night with the news they had feared the most. The doctor said that Nicholas, the smaller of the twins, was in “trouble” and he might be dead before Paul and Christine could get to the hospital.

Nicholas had struggled with breathing problems since his birth and it looked grim. Paul and Christine rushed to the hospital, praying all of the way, frustrated by the slow-moving traffic they encountered. The staff at the hospital had tried frantically to stabilize the tiny boy, but his lungs were failing. Even the sophisticated ventilator couldn’t help him. By the time Paul and Christine arrived, Nicholas was only getting half the oxygen he needed to survive.

A nurse decided to try an ancient technique that is being rediscovered in many hospitals around the world. It’s a form of skin-to-skin contact between the parent and the child where the baby is placed against the parent’s bare chest. The method is called “kangaroo care” because it resembles the way the pouched animals care for their young. For some unknown reason, it is especially effective with premature babies and there are sometimes amazing effects: a steadier heart rate, increased energy, better breathing, and deeper sleep.

As Nicholas’s blood-oxygen level continued to drop, the nurses placed the wriggling, “palm-sized” infant, with all of the tubes and monitor wires still attached, on Christine’s chest. Instantly, he started to relax and within twenty minutes his heart and pulse rates, and his oxygen level, was in the normal range! Soon he was resting more comfortably while his brother, Daniel, was sleeping in an incubator nearby. But Nicholas wasn’t out of danger yet. The Dinsdales, with the help of four family members, held Nicholas for thirty-two hours straight. Christine said, “He just responded so well to it. He loves to be held. It gives him security and calms him down.”

The kangaroo-care also gives parents a chance to bond with their babies, something that is hard to do through the thick plastic walls of an incubator. The Dinsdale twins were so sick at birth that their parents couldn’t hold them for the first thirty days of their lives. They could reach in and pat them but they had to be very careful. Their skin was like tissue paper. They also couldn’t even hear the babies cry because the breathing tubes inserted at birth kept their vocal cords from vibrating. Paul could tell that they were trying to cry though. Their tiny mouths would quiver but there would be no sound.

Two weeks later Nicholas had grown to three pounds, nine ounces and Daniel was now four pounds seven ounces. Both boys were moved out of their individual incubators into a single crib in what is referred to as “double-bedding” of twins. Paul had hope that his boys would respond as positively to this “treatment” as Nicholas had to the kangaroo-care. Paul had already learned the truth about life in the neonatal intensive care unit. Good things happen slowly and bad things happen fast.

The two boys suffered setbacks and underwent numerous surgeries for their lungs and eyes. Although there was some improvement in the boys’ condition, the doctors still offered little hope for their survival. Paul remained positive and always seemed convinced that they’d make it despite the odds. Through it all, it was the boys’ parent’s faith in God that made this emotional “roller coaster ride” bearable. Paul and Christine believed that God would “pull the boys through” and that they would finally be able to get out of the hospital.

On February 14th, 1998, after nearly five months, Nicholas died. Within twenty-four hours, Daniel died.

We were all heartbroken for Paul and Christine, but most of us certainly had no idea how a loss like this could really hurt.


  1. What a heart-rending story.

    When you described the positive effects of of the "kangaroo care," I thought that the babies might make it.

    Although I lost my son six months ago, I can only imagine the hellish experience that your friends had to endure.

    On a happier note, I've been making my way through this blog from the beginning and am fascinated by your various experiences. It's been a very well-written and honest look at your life's journey.

    Truly compelling.

  2. 737doctor,
    Thanks VERY much for commenting on my "life story"...I really appreciate that you're reading the very long story too! Please stick with it to the end...and I'd really enjoy hearing your thoughts on the upcoming chapters. Some of it is fun...but some of it is sad too....Thanks again...Paul Howley