Chapter 19 Summary

A New Year’s Story

On New Year’s Eve 2001, Jai is seven months pregnant and planning a quiet night at home watching a movie with her husband. Suddenly she begins bleeding. Pausch drives her to the hospital just a few minutes away. The doctors in the emergency room soon discover the placenta has torn away from the uterine wall and the baby’s life, along with Jai’s, is at risk.

Her pregnancy has been rough for weeks because her placenta was not functioning efficiently and the baby was not thriving. She was given steroids to stimulate the baby’s lung development, but now her condition is much more serious. Jai is close to clinical shock, and Pausch is worried that the doctors might not be up to the task of saving both his wife and child. The medical team is impressive, though, and they rush Jai into surgery to perform an emergency C-section.

The doctors are reassuring, and the anesthesiologist charges Pausch with the task of keeping his wife calm so they will not have to treat her for shock. Most husbands can offer little more to their wives than moral support; however, Pausch has been given a real job and how well he does it matters to his wife and child. He decides the most calming thing he can do is tell her the truth, so he watches the surgery and tells her what he sees. When he sees the baby, Jai is afraid to ask the most important question, but he quickly assures her the baby is moving.

Suddenly the Pausches’ first-born son, Dylan, is screaming, which is a good sign according to the medical staff. Although he only weighs two pounds fifteen ounces, he is breathing well on his own. Jai begins to relax with relief, and Pausch is amazed by her courage. The staff is reassuring and Dylan never needs a respirator, but his parents still feel a daily fear that their baby’s condition can suddenly digress. Each day as they drive to the hospital, they wonder if Dylan will still be alive.

One day when they arrive his bassinet is gone, and both parents experience panic and terror. When they manage to ask about Dylan, a nurse tells them he is doing so well that he has been moved to another ward. They race to see him, and they find him screaming with life.

Pausch is reminded that when things are bad, people have the power to make them worse. If either of them had “fallen to pieces,” their son might not have survived. They just kept going, and there were things they could do to improve their bad situation. They might have whined about life not being fair; instead they just recognized the things they could do to help and they did them.