Book review: 'Unbreakable Bonds' shows the healing power of maternal love

“Unbreakable Bonds”
“Unbreakable Bonds”

A mother gives birth and nurtures the child until it's time to leave home. Yet even after a child volunteers to join the military and travel halfway around the world to fight in a war, a mother's love remains a very strong bond.

That bond was in evidence when 10 strong, brave, resourceful and loving mothers had to care for their wounded warriors. Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris have written an interesting and insightful book that illustrates how the 10 "mighty moms" responded to the needs of their sons (and one daughter) after they returned home from the wars.

In "Unbreakable Bonds," we learn how these mothers gave up their jobs, homes and family without hesitation and came to the side of their children as they underwent multiple operations and painful, frustrating recovery and rehabilitation. The book also shows how the mothers banded together to take on each other's pain, frustration and worries. They also banded together to occasionally take on hospital staff and administration.

One of the 10 mothers, Stacy Fidler, recalls how terrified she was when she first entered her son's ICU room at the Walter Reed Bethesda National Military Medical Center. Mark Fidler was unconscious, tubes running into his body. He had suffered severe trauma, and although Stacy Fidler was thankful that he was receiving critical care, it was uncertain whether he would live or die.

"Stacy's inner 'mama grizzly' kicked in, and from that day on she became tougher than the toughest drill instructor, and a fierce protector of her now wounded warrior son," the authors write.

One of the ironies of war, as Guerin and Ferris note, is the breakthroughs in trauma care that have their roots in military medicine.

"From robotic prosthetics to wound care and rehabilitation advancements, long-term survival rates and quality of life have dramatically improved," the authors write. "For wounded active-duty service members - and there are nearly two thousand who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan - being treated at Walter Reed has made all the difference."

We learn that spouses of the wounded warriors who are treated at Walter Reed can live with them during rehabilitation. While the mothers can live with their wounded warriors as well, they are considered NMA's (nonmedical attendants) and are paid only $72 a day to provide round-the-clock care for their sons or daughters.

"I think it's hard for the people to understand what it is like to be a mom and watch your child suffer every day," says Pam Corrigan Britt, one of the 10 mothers. "But the other moms here know the struggles we are going through with the military, and we learn from our collective experiences."

I expected far more criticism of Walter Reed. Although the mothers complain about administrative issues and isolated medical incidents, there is much praise for the military hospital's medical staff. "Unbreakable Bonds" is a well-written and compelling book about perseverance, patriotism, family, faith and hope.