When I first learned of this biography project, I was very excited to be able to choose a book to study. I knew that I wanted to read about a doctor, and eventually decided on Dr. Couney.
While reading the book my feelings toward Dr. Couney evolved and changed greatly as I learned more about his motivations and role in the medical community. The main takeaway I had from reading Miracle on Coney Island by Claire Prentice was the fact that Couney was more of a businessman than a doctor. He coordinated the incubator nurseries, but his nurses and physicians were the ones caring for the infants.
My personal connection to this book is the fact that I was born 2 1/2 months premature. I was shocked to read that the majority of society in the late 1800s and 1900s didn’t believe “preemies” were worth saving.
This seems to be one of Couney’s motivations for his incubator nurseries. He wanted to show families and doctors that the infants could be saved and go on to lead healthy lives.
One aspect of Couney that startled me was the fact that he was not a licensed doctor. I struggled to reconcile this fact with his intentions toward saving the premature infants. However, as I continued to read and understand that Couney was a businessman and not clinically caring for the infants each day, I began to relax. I had imagined a man with no medical training probing innocent “preemies”, and all my confidence in his pure motivations went out the window.
My conclusions of Couney are still developing as I think about his character, actions, and motivations. I believe he was truly motivated by wanting to save the lives of “preemies”. I believe he used his place in the “show world” to provide free care to parents of premature infants, and allowed for his nurses and physicians to care for the infants.
His “sideshow” allowed for the incubator to become a standard practice of care for the premature infant. After all, if a man at a circus could save thousands of preemies, then doctors could too.
Image Source: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/31/once-a-sideshow-former-preemies-praise-doctor-year/