One out of every hundred babies is born with a congenital heart issue. Some problems are pinpointed and diagnosed early, while others go undetected for years. When Bret and Amy Baier joyfully gave birth to their son, Paul, in 2007, he was a "perfect," healthy baby. But less than 24 hours later, through a seeming coincidence—or more likely, providence—a substitute nurse assigned to the newborn didn't like something about Paul's color and alerted doctors. Paul was later diagnosed with a complicated combination of five major heart defects, the most serious and life-threatening being that his "walnut-sized heart" was pumping in the wrong direction.
The main story that ensues in Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love is an intimate and detailed account of Paul's harrowing struggle to survive as his parents face hard choices amid his critical health condition. What hospital was best for Paul? Which pediatric surgeon would be the most experienced and capable to handle the delicacy of reconstructing and rebuilding Paul's fragile heart with vessels as "narrow as angel hair pasta"? And how long could the couple wait to make such life-changing decisions?
Along the way, Bret Baier, noted journalist and anchor of "Special Report," gives a well-told, anecdote-filled back story of his life—his years as a traveling reporter whose goal was to break into the Washington news business; how he met his wife, Amy, and courted her; his passion for golf; and his ascent en route to becoming the Chief White House Correspondent and ultimately manning the helm of a successful daily news program. These details offer a fully drawn portrait of Baier and enhance an era of his life when he and Amy had their faith and courage tested amid the challenges of Paul's unexpected medical crisis.
Throughout, the story is touch-and-go and stirring. Baier and his co-writer, Jim Mills, render it with perfect balance, blending facts with raw, emotional honesty, which makes for a riveting, page-turning read. From the time of Paul's birth until he turns six years-old, he bravely endures three open heart surgeries, seven angioplasties and one unrelated stomach surgery. The most moving parts of the memoir are the reprinted emails Baier sent to family, friends and others concerned and interested in the Baiers' journey, those who also offered love, support and the power of prayer. These passages are deeply personal and revealing. They shed light into the mind and soul of a sincere, sensitive person grappling with his faith, fate and the future.
In the end, all "Three Baiers" are physically, emotional and spiritually transformed by an experience that continues to require diligent, ongoing effort. At its core, "Special Heart" emerges as an inspirational story of hope from a man in the public eye unafraid to share the depth of his experiences in order to help and heal others.
* Note: One hundred percent of what the author receives from the sale of this book is donated to various non-profit pediatric heart causes.
Center Street, $25.00 Hardcover, 9781455583638, 288 pp
Publication Date: June 3, 2014