"A Room Full of Miracles," the WDVM hour-long special (8 tonight on Channel 9) on the highly respected Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Fairfax Hospital, isn't bad -- and that is about the best that can be said for it.
It was filmed over a period of two months and traces the progress of six premature infants (including one set of twins).
But despite some splendid camera work, some beautiful babies -- perhaps too beautiful to believe that they are indeed hovering between life and death -- and interviews with all the right people, "A Room Full of Miracles" somehow fails to communicate the drama, the anguish or, indeed, the miracles.
The Fairfax neonatal unit is among the best in the country -- and in the world -- and has become so largely under the leadership of Dr. Lloyd Kramer. Kramer is justifiably proud of the unit's high rate of success in saving even those babies who weigh less than two pounds. And he is as concerned as most of his colleagues with the "quality of life" issues that have surrounded the space technology of the state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit.
The lives of these infants may be saved, but sometimes at the cost of mild learning disabilities or severe retardation, serious respiratory and heart problems and a range of other disorders. There are fewer of these -- as well as fewer deaths -- among the Fairfax newborns principally because of the unit's medical sophistication and an empathetic staff.
However, quality of life and the long-term health of the babies is mentioned only casually on the program.
We are told about the anguish of parents when they see their babies attached to masses of tubes and cruel-looking instruments, but the interviews with parents do not show it. We are told the mothers ache because they are cut out of the early nurturing of their infants, but we are not made to feel it.
And though we can sense the precarious situation of these tiny humans not ready to eat or even breathe on their own, the special only occasionally captures that sense of drama one felt, for example, in the old "Lifeline" series, still seen on occasion on public broadcasting.
Certainly the Fairfax unit is special, but this documentary fails to really capture its specialness.