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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The follow-up to an award-winning audio diary recorded for NPR, Breathing for a Living chronicles two and half stressful years in the life of cystic fibrosis patient Laura Rothenberg -- from her agonizing decision to undergo a risky double-lung transplant through ten perilous post-op months filled with frightening complications and heartbreaking setbacks.
In writing that is straightforward, emotionally honest, and utterly unsentimental, Rothenberg describes the details of her interrupted life: a college career (at Brown University) sidetracked by long hospitalizations; activities derailed by unpleasant medical procedures; and debilitating bouts of nausea, tremors, depression, and self-pity. Through it all, she remains doggedly determined to maintain some semblance of normalcy. She composes emails from her hospital bed, she makes plans between bronchoscopies -- and when her "numbers" are good and she's felling well, she skates, goes to school, watches Law & Order reruns, gorges on pudding cups, and hangs with her friends.
What shines through in this extraordinary memoir is Rothenberg's unflinching self-awareness. She rides the roller coaster of her emotions unapologetically, careening from the willfulness of a pouting child to the stoicism of the professional patient. Having said goodbye to so many friends with CF, she has hope, but no illusions.
Breathing for a Living opens with these two arresting sentences: "I am having a midlife crisis. Tomorrow I will be nineteen." Sadly, these mathematical calculations were far off the mark. On March 21, 2003, almost two years after her transplant, Laura Rothenberg died from chronic organ rejection. She was 22 years old. Anne Markowski