Monday, August 25, 2008

Toronto Star interview

In case you didn't catch it, here's part of an interview I gave to journalist Diane Flacks for the Toronto Star on August 16 ("Storytelling in the neonatal unit"):

For the past 30 years, Dan Yashinsky has travelled all over the world as a storyteller, author, teacher and radio host.

He has learned that "storytelling is not only an entertaining way to pass the time, it is also an art that can mend broken souls." Including his own.

In August 1991, Yashinsky's second child, Jacob, was born with an Apgar score of 2 out of 10. Two is the lowest score you can get in the Apgar measurement of newborn responsiveness and still be alive.

Jacob became a patient in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was limp, barely breathing, white and waxy-looking. Yashinsky describes him as "a scrap of humanity washed up on the soil of the NICU."

Sixteen years later, in a Toronto coffee shop, Yashinsky hands me a CD of his latest piece, Talking You In, a story (with musical accompaniment by Brian Katz) about Jacob's three weeks in the Hospital for Sick Children's neonatal ICU.

On the CD, Yashinsky rightly calls the intensive care experience one of rush and reverie.

After Jacob was born, the doctors immediately rushed him into a recovery room. Yashinsky and his wife, Carol Zavitz, were in shock, but she was able to insist that they name this baby.

Yashinsky explains now, "We wanted everyone to know he is here as part of a family. He has been noticed."

As the chaos whizzed around them, they whispered the name together: Jacob.

Yashinsky also reached out physically. "I felt instinctively that I must make a connection to wherever his soul is. The image in my mind was that he was somewhere out there, real scared and really lost. And even if he died that night, I needed him to have been touched and named."

For the rest of the interview, see

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