Fragile Innocence is the story of a child devastated by pure chance. This moving narrative of a father’s journey to understand and accept the profound changes in his daughter’s life is at once memoir, biography, mystery, and drama, all centered around one remarkable young woman who cannot talk or read or understand language, but who has touched almost everyone she has ever met.
At eighteen months Hillary Reston, a happy, healthy toddler, was struck by a remarkably high fever. On the advice of her doctor, her parents, James Reston, Jr., and Denise Leary, administered Tylenol and anxiously waited for the fever to subside. Five days later it did, but the damage was done. Over the course of the next five months their bubbly, highly verbal child was radically and irrevocably changed. Worse yet, no doctor could explain what evil and still unidentified force had stolen Hillary’s ability to speak or understand language, hurtled her into a seemingly endless cycle of seizures, destroyed her kidneys, and taken her to the very brink of death.
For her parents, discovering what had happened to their child and how to assure the quality of her life became an obsession. This quest for answers would take them from the nation’s hospitals to the office of a pioneering geneticist in Texas and the vaulted halls of the National Institutes of Health.
This very intimate story also personalizes some of the most daunting ethical issues of medicine that society faces today, including stem cell research, animal organ transplantation, diagnosis with the Human Genome Map, and reproductive and therapeutic cloning. Hillary gives these immensely complicated issues a human face, and they are pondered by Reston as a reporter, a thinker, and a father.
In Fragile Innocence author James Reston, Jr., invites us inside his family, candidly sharing the joys and sorrows of raising Hillary.
“This is a book about the first twenty-one years of a child named Hillary. It tells of her battle to live and our family’s struggle to help her survive as best we could, after an evil and still unidentified force robbed her of her language at the age of two, hurtled her into a seemingly endless cycle of brain storms, destroyed her kidneys, and took her to the very brink of death. That is the first half of the story, when life itself was at stake.” —From the Preface