On a summer evening in 1996, six-year-old Andrew Bateson came down with a fever and flu-like symptoms, but within a few hours his parents knew this wasn't any ordinary sickness. Andrew had bacterial meningitis, a wildly virulent and life-threatening disease. Within a few days, Andrew was covered from head to toe in a deep purpose rash, his skin covered with lesions and his vital organs on the verge of shutting down. After battling for more than a month, doctors were able to save Andrew's life, but they weren't able to save his legs. Both had to be removed below the knees.
UP AND RUNNING is a remarkable story about courage and comebacks. It walks readers through a very detailed account of Andrew's illness and recovery. But this book is about more than just one boy; it is packed with insightful stories about the team of doctors, family members, friends and a priest who became involved in supporting Andrew and his family through their work, donations and prayer.
The book itself is honest, vulnerable and refreshing. It doesn't candy-coat the full spectrum of emotions Andrew's family felt: The anger. The doubt. The depression. And the distance that developed between Andrew's parents. One of the most powerful storylines in the book follows the Batesons' marriage, which unravels but then finds reconciliation and renewal.
The writing itself is simple and straightforward. Many of the sentences are extremely short in order to convey a sense of urgency and draw readers into the story. Overall, it's an effective device that brings the book alive in the second half.
Unexpectedly, there's a lot of humor in this book --- mostly contributed by Andrew's quick wit and spunk. Whether he was getting the best of his nurses or saying "ouch" when someone stepped on his foot, the book has a nice array of lighter moments. At one point, Andrew is out riding his bike when he accidentally bumped the release button on one of his prosthetics. His father watched and yelled for a neighborhood boy nearby to catch Andrew who was heading down the street.
Patinkin writes, "A moment before Andrew's leg came off, a college-aged jogger had come around the corner. He saw the whole thing and appeared panicked. He asked if they wanted him to call 911. Scott didn't have time to chat about it. He just grabbed Andrew's detached leg and kept running. The young man looked as though he had seen a ghost. His face was white, and he appeared to be shaking… Afterward, Scott would joke about the college student who perhaps still thought he saw a child get his leg sliced off by a bike. At the same time, Scott felt bad for the young man. It was not the kind of sight you would easily get over. The next day, Scott and Rebecca decided to get Andrew a bike with handbrakes."
Overall, UP AND RUNNING is a wonderful book packed with hope and life. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on September 28, 2005