On August 9, 1963, the infant son of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, born premature at 34 weeks, died after 39 hours of life from a common lung ailment.  This book tells, for the very first time, the entire story of those tense and desperate days from the viewpoint of Patrick’s pediatrician and the team of doctors who tried to save him. It also chronicles the captivating history of newborn care and the way the death of the Kennedy baby, faced by his heartbroken parents with consummate courage and grace, triggered a worldwide medical response that ultimately led to major advances in newborn care that have saved the lives of millions of infants.

In Michael Ryan’s Patrick Bouvier Kennedy: A Brief Life that Changed the History of Newborn Care, a life cut short by premature birth and respiratory distress is examined with consummate sensitivity and scholarship. One learns not only of the personal tragedy of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy, but of the historical circumstances leading to medical advances in surfactant therapy and the decline of infant mortality. This is an essential book on the subject of newborn care and the prevention of prematurity, and it deserves the widest readership.

– David W. Rose, Archivist, March of Dimes

“Because it is important for trainees to know the key events in the history of Neonatology this book is an essential read for them. Practicing neonatologist will also enjoy the tragic story which sparked the flood of research leading to the dramatic advances which have saved the lives of millions of babies”.

– Avroy Fanaroff M.D., Virginia Apgar awardee, coeditor of Care of the high-risk neonate and coauthor of Fanaroff and Martins Neonatal-Perinatal

I very much enjoyed reading Michael Ryan’s book about the Kennedy baby. His book is a remarkable achievement in describing the events and preparation prior to the Kennedy baby’s birth, the care that he received, and his early death from hyaline membrane disease (HMD), which is now called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). I also appreciated Ryan describing the early efforts to care for prematurely born infants in the foundling homes in Russia and France, and the development of incubators used in their care. Mr. Ryan also pointed out the enormous effect that Patrick’s birth and death had on the American people, how great sums of moneys were then allocated to research focusing on the preterm infant, and how such research has led to markedly improved outcomes of these infants. Also impressive was the fact he went back and re-interviewed many of those who were involved in Patrick’s care, including those using the hyperbaric chamber. Lastly, Ryan’s education of his readers in understanding the pathology and the pathophysiology of RDS, and the acknowledgement and reference of those scientists who contributed to the discovery, characterization and the understanding of surfactant and its subsequent use in the treatment of infants with RDS was superb.

-Phillip Sunshine M.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Neonatal Perinatal Medicine
Virginia Apgar Award Winner – American Academy of Pediatrics

I really enjoyed this book and though I knew a portion of the Kennedy Baby history now know much more. I also appreciated all of the personal elements of the story, which were more moving than anticipated. The book is very well done and it’s an important part of the history to our field that he has recorded. I’ll recommend it to others and give a copy to my graduating fellows.

- Henry Lee M.D.
Division of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine,
Stanford University

The death of a President’s newborn infant (in an era of modern medicine) from a condition that is now largely prevented ...is unique. The story that Michael Ryan tells is also unique in that it contains the first verbatim description of these events by those who were involved in the care of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. As such, it is essential reading for all who take care of newborn infants, to understand where we have come from, and where we are today in the field of neonatology.

- M. Jeffrey Maisels MD, DSc, Virginia Apgar Awardee,
Chair Emeritus and Professor, Department of Pediatrics Oakland University, William Beaumont School of Medicine

This book on the medical biography of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy is a wonderful story of the tremendous impact on the history of pediatric care made by one little patient. It is also a history of the advances in pediatric clinical care...the cast of individuals involved in his care will bring back memories of how pediatricians struggled in those days with this condition in premature infants...

- Cheston M. Berlin, Jr., M.D, Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology,
Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.

This is a fascinating glimpse into a dark and little discussed chapter of the Kennedy family's tale. Ryan shares first hand accounts from medical professionals who took part in Patrick's care, and offers key insights into the challenge of caring for preterm infants at a time when few treatments were available to save them. He details the history of advancements in neonatal care in terms that are easily understood, while beautifully conveying the spiritual and emotional struggles of all those involved in this heartbreaking story of loss. We also learn that the loss of Patrick Kennedy ushered in an increased awareness that would save countless lives in the years to come. Painstakingly researched and beautifully written. This is an excellent account of one brief life that impacted so many lives to follow.

– J.E. Poe