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Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU by…

Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU

by Jenny Jaeckel

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I read this book on my computer via a copy one of my dear neighbors had loaned me, and the following is my honest opinion.

Granted, while this endeavor by the author, Jenny Jaeckel, is in a comic book format, it does a decent job depicting the reality and the anguish by the parents, especially the mother, of seeing their newborn child lying helpless in an incubator in a NICU ward, it doesn’t come close to the real thing.

Having worked in city hospital for over 33 years in a non-medical capacity I had the opportunity of seeing NICU babies up close and personal. You can’t imagine what it’s like looking at these infants first hand, some so small you could hold in the palms of both of your hands. There they lie with their still pink helpless bodies, in their incubators, with monitors and tiny IV tubes with tiny needles taped to their bodies. The incubators have two holes on each side through which gloved nurses gingerly manipulate these pre-mature infants.

You can’t imagine the mothers sitting on chairs looking at the wonder they’ve given birth to. It’s a marvelous sight looking at these NICU babies has they win their battle of facing the numerous medical complications associated with being born pre-mature. You can’t imagine the emotional sight of seeing the mother being able to hold her infant in her arms for the time after several weeks, unless you’ve witnessed it yourself.

While having one child in a NICU is emotionally draining, just imagine what it’s like when the mother had given birth to multiple pre-mature infants, with each one developing at different rates. A mother might have one child at home, and the other(s) still in the NICU.

For having given her readers this insightful story, how can you not give it 5 STARS. ( )
  MyPenNameOnly | Jul 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When I got this book, which was way longer ago than it took me to read it (an hour), it was subtitled "The Story of a Birth." I point this out because some things may have been changed before publication, but also to say that the new subtitle is much more accurate in portraying what the book is actually about.

Very moving, honest, heart-rending. Hard to imagine how Jenny and her barely-referred-to husband got through it. I'm sure it was therapeutic to write it, and I guess to illustrate it. I've not read any Maus, to which it was compared; the first and only graphic novels I've read are the masterpieces by Alison Bechdel. A difficult comparison. That said, the illustrations, the piglike-looking people, really put me off. They clashed with the emotional power of the writing, almost trivializing each frame.

And some odd things stick with me: her anti-vaccination certainty, and her odd references to the religions of others: the Argentinians in the park who offered to pray for her daughter, Jenny acquiescing because after all "Jesus was Jewish" (how on earth did she ascertain their heritage and why on earth would it matter?); and the three Mormon boys her mother found to help with the move (why mention that?).

I was very relieved to find out that Asa is okay, and interested that she is trans. ( )
  bobbieharv | May 3, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A beautiful, heartbreaking graphic memoir of what it's like to have a child born with a life-threatening illness. While the story itself is intense and personal- it's the drawings that really bring things into focus. They are black-and-white, sparse, and slightly surreal (probably a lot like the whole experience was). Honestly, it was a lot like reading some of Art Spiegalman's graphic memoir/biography work. And not just because the main characters are vaguely mouse-shaped. It's more the simple frankness- not hiding the bad parts to make yourself look good. And the simple will to live overcoming everything else.
  PirateColey | Apr 20, 2017 |
Loving and also gut wrenching story of a baby's time in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). While the book is a relatively quick read, it can be an emotionally tough read. Jenny Jaeckel lays bare the fears, challenges and nightmares of having a baby in the NICU. Ms Jaeckel also is brutally honest with her struggles with mental/emotionally stability during what certainly has to be the absolutely most difficult time in her and families life. Jenny Jaeckel showed the courage to share her story. As a graphic novel, Spot 12 is wonderfully illustrated. The drawings bring light to a story that is frightening dark (for a parent). Jenny Jaeckel deserves a heart felt "Well done" for her Spot 12: The Story of a Birth.

I received this book as part of the GoodRead program. ( )
  LouisianaReader | Mar 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
First of all, I want to commend Jenny Jaeckel for sharing what I'm sure is one of her most harrowing and personal stories. Though I could personally take or leave this particular graphic novel, I've never been a parent searching for a book to connect with while in the dark depths of slogging through the NICU. I can only imagine that Spot 12 would be absolutely invaluable in that case.

However, I do have some issues with the way the book was done. First of all, it's obvious that Jaeckel wants to give credit to the medical professionals, friends, and family members who are peripheral to the story she was trying to tell in Spot 12, but who were essential in helping her daughter Asa overcome the many medical obstacles she faced. Unfortunately, the pseudonyms Jaeckel insists on granting each of these people sound very similar, and the characters aren't differentiated enough for the reader to keep track, so they become poorly-developed side characters who are difficult to keep straight, as opposed to a strong but not completely defined group. It would've been more functional for readers if Jaeckel simply said, "The kind nurse," or, "The dismissive doctor," if talking about an individual, or merely called them by title as a group, "The doctors," or "The nurses." Readers don't learn enough about any of these people to establish one of them as a character to track, but they are made to feel like they should, just because Jaeckel named them.

A similar problem is that one would think Jaeckel's husband, Asa's father, to be a central figure in the story. But, when he is first named, it is in the context of a mention of a medical professional, whose title is clearly explained, and there's no attendant label for who "Cito" might be. Thus, I spent the next few pages in a haze of confusion, distracted by flipping back and forth in an attempt to solve the case of where Cito came from. I thought that was truly bizarre.

What I did love about the book, though, was Jaeckel's style of illustration, which reminded me of something like Winne The Pooh crossed with MAUS. It sounds strange, but her method of using anthropomorphic animals to represent the various human characters actually made the people more humanized. It also allowed me as a reader to not get caught up in various distractions like I might if the illustrations had been of people, such as their hairstyles or clothing choices. The features and expressions of each animal served to build the mood of the book at that point in the narrative, and they did their job well.

Ultimately, Spot 12 is not an amazingly well-done graphic novel. It probably isn't going to win many awards, and I certainly won't be reserving a place on my crowded bookshelf for it. But, that isn't to say I wouldn't recommend it, because I would... for those people who aren't looking for the next groundbreaking graphic novel, but who are instead searching for a heartfelt personal story of how one mother and her child overcame the struggles associated with premature birth. If you deal with preemies, or you want to understand those who do, you might want to pick up Spot 12. If you're currently facing down a similar situation, holding the fort for your own child fighting for his or her life in a NICU, reading Spot 12 might be comforting... it might be informative... it might breed solidarity and kinship. In that respect, I think Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU by Jenny Jaeckel is invaluable. ( )
  LimitedNicheSpecies | Nov 1, 2016 |
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