Between Christmas and crowd avoidance (post RSV-gate) it’s been a while since we made a trip to baby cinema but this week marked a long overdue return. The movie of choice was Jackie. As you would expect, it’s a stunningly stylish and beautiful movie to watch, and I mean beautiful (OMG the style!) but like many others, I also found it so so sad.
While the film centres on Jackie’s mental turmoil and grief following JFK’s death, it also touches on some of the other tragedies within the Kennedy family; the loss of two babies and in particular the loss of their baby son Patrick. What I didn’t realise until I started Googling after the movie, is that baby Patrick had arrived prematurely at 34 weeks. Born at a fairly robust weight of 4lbs 10oz, he sadly died 39 hours after his birth from what’s now known as Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). At the time, over half a century ago, this was the most common cause of death among preemies accounting for over 25,000 deaths a year in the US. Back then in 1963, NICUs did not exist as we know them now and, when compared with today, medicine had little to offer babies like Patrick born too soon.
In news’ circles, Patrick’s death was overshadowed by the murder of JFK just three months later but in medical circles, it provoked a massive newfound focus in the whole area of premature birth. As a result there were huge increases in funding for research that would become the catalyst for medical advances that, according to historians, “did for prematurity what Sputnik did for the human race”.
On the one hand, it’s so hard now to think that a baby born 9 weeks later than Amy (born at 25 weeks) didn’t make it. Yet on the other hand, isn’t it amazing to think that, thanks to modern medicine, a baby born at 25 weeks (or even earlier) now has a chance of survival. Isn’t it remarkable that the Kennedys had a key role to play in this revolution of care for preemies?
Knowing this now, and reflecting on the movie, in ways it’s even sadder for me. To think that Jackie struggled so deeply, not just with all the tragedy in her life, but also with the legacy that she would leave behind. I can’t imagine the grief of losing two children and husband within such a short space of time but I hope she eventually found peace and died knowing that while her angel Patrick died, so many babies have since been saved. So while I will always think of Jackie as one of the biggest style icons of all time, from this week she and John F Kennedy hold an extra special place in my heart and hopefully too the hearts of parents of preemies everywhere.
Ps. Here are a two good articles worth reading if you want to know more:
Image credit: JStone / Shutterstock, Inc.