Miracle at Coney Island by Claire Prentice
Claire Prentice’s Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Saved Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine is the biography of Michael Cohen/Martin Couney.
While I’d heard that “the inventor of the incubator started out in fairs because the medical community wouldn’t accept him into hospitals” and that he’d “saved thousands of lives,” I hadn’t really known any details. Though, I had imagined what it would have been like to be exploring the park at Coney Island and stumble upon a bunch of preemie babies. I’d always liked the idea of the story since two of my three living kids lived in an incubator for a while after their births.
This in-depth look at his life, however, was startling. There’s a lot of murkiness and shady stories around the work of a man who saved babies under the scrutiny of the public eye for forty years. He managed to project for many years a reputation that cannot be documented. He was clearly never licensed to practice medicine in America, and it’s highly doubted that he’d earned that right in Europe, since evidence cannot be found.
I learned a lot from this book, especially about the medical field in general, and neo-natal care in the first half of the 20th century in particular. I was shocked at the number of yearly deaths from uterine infections that could have been avoided (and were once we figured out you should wash up before entering a hospital room). Oh, and the nurse who campaigned for years for all medical staff to wash their hands up to the elbows until it became standard hospital procedure? One of Couney’s nurses. Good things happened in his “little side show” at the fairs around the world and on Coney Island.
My favorite quote of the book is “Couney clearly had his faults, but he was also enterprising and compassionate. Was he a visionary or an opportunist? An evangelist or a showman? Baker calls this ‘the essential question about Couney. I suspect he had a bit of both in him’.” I think that sums his life up very well.
And the results of his work as a showman? Thousands of people alive today, and huge advances in medicine. It’s estimated he saved about 6,000 babies, most of whom went on to have many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So, he truly left a legacy of life.
5/5 Stars. Definitely read this biography.
I only post reviews for books I am not connected with. If I beta read or edited the book, or work as a virtual assistant for the author, I do not post a review. However, authors occasionally send me books to review.
Projected* schedule for Book Reviews for 2018:
1st Monday: Fantasy or Sci-Fi (what I read the most)
2nd Monday: Random book (could be anything, but expect a lot of mysteries)
3rd Monday: Romance (might have sex, but will not be any relationship that is not MF)
4th Monday: Non-Fiction (inspirational, biographies, instructional)
*Due to LIFE being a factor in my life, this schedule might not actually happen.
Continuity Editor & Virtual Assistant
Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, fur mom, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.