At Hand to Hold we like celebrating the milestone, amazing achievements of our preemies as Preemie Power. We were excited when Andy Male published a book titled Go Preemies! (Millman Publishing Group, 2014), which highlights the stories of preemies who changed the world with their preemie power. Examples include:
- three of the most influential scientists of all time: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newtown and Charles Darwin.
- Nobel Peace Prize leader Winston Churchill.
- An Olympic Champion Wilma Ruldolph
- An American literary genius Mark Twain.
- and many others….
Author Andy Male was a micro-preemie. Born at 27-weeks gestation in 1977 at 2lbs, 2oz, he spent three months in one of three NICUs nationwide at the time. Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, helped invent what we now know as neonatology. As a child Andy participated in a research cohort studying the long term effects of prematurity. Participating in the cohort he saw many babies who were blind, deaf, with cerebral palsy and many who passed away. It was a striking testament to how fortunate he was to come out relatively healthy. This experience with the research cohort instilled within Andy a strong desire to maximize his potential and not take any part of life for granted.
Andy credits his mom Cathy for framing prematurity in a positive light. His prematurity journey is captured in a large green album of polaroids with notes in the margin. Seeing this progression over time gave him a real sense of appreciation for what he went through.
In school he was held back a year and always older than his classmates. Learning disabilities weren’t diagnosed at the time. Because of his mom’s inspiration, he always wanted to work hard to overcome his prematurity. Cathy’s message to her son was that he was unique and a fighter. He was able to look back and essentially see his parent’s emotional journey and what they went through to raise him.
Growing up Andy wanted to know if some of the greatest minds were preemies, like him. He wanted to know if they experienced the same struggles with learning and development.
Andy’s motivation for writing Go Preemies! was to write a book that he and his parents would have wanted when he was a child. Andy saw a need for something that would give hope and inspiration to families of premature infants. Andy clearly recalls the struggles and setbacks he went through. If he knew great leaders of this caliber had similar prematurity experiences, he would have cast aside any self-doubt and pushed forward. He knows first hand that young preemies will benefit from the confidence of knowing the world’s greatest achievers had similar setbacks. It helps give preemies, like Andy (or my son Giovanni) confidence to pursue their dreams.
Most books are clinical in nature and written by medical professionals for the medical side of the NICU. The uniqueness in this children’s book is that it’s written to encourage parents whose infants are in the NICU and for children as they are growing up after a NICU stay.
Andy started researching the topic of the book while looking for an illustrator. He received dozens of proposals with great artwork. One of the proposals was a childhood friend, Jamie Rockwell. When Jamie told his mother about doing the artwork for Go Preemies!, she told him he’d been born six-weeks premature (something Jamie hadn’t known).
I met Andy at a conference in 2015. I purchased two copies of the book, and for Christmas 2015 our family donated a copy of Go Preemies! to our son’s NICU. Our neonatal staff was so excited to receive Go Preemies!; they huddled around flipping pages. The second copy Andy signed for my son Giovanni, a former 30-weeker, that will grow with him. Six years ago, while we were in the NICU, my husband read from a thick academic text titled Speeches That Changed the World by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which includes speeches by many of the leaders in Go Preemies! Deep inside our family knew that our 2lb, 8oz micro-preemie would transform the world. As parents we wanted to nurture the strength, conviction and courage for our son to become a leader. Our neonatal staff chuckled at this thick college aged textbook that weighed more than our premature son. Receiving Go Preemies!, our NICU staff sincerely appreciated the innovative story of preemies who grew in to great leaders.
In late 2015 Andy and his team at Millman Publishing rolled out a Go Preemies digital app for $7.99. It has an option to e-read the book or listen to an audio version with lifelike accents. At the end you can add your child’s name and photograph and share your child’s preemie story.
Andy’s book is an exciting addition to children’s literature. I highly recommend it as a gift to your NICU or for your own cherished book shelf.