Bismillah,  alhamdulillah: this sounds like a very odd question but reality can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Dr Martin Couney was a pioneer in neonatology and wanted to promote the use of incubators to help premature babies stay alive. At the time he started to promote the adoption in hospitals the response he received was in the negative. Hospitals refused to have such a device in their premises and the natural outcome of premature babies was death.

The baby incubator exhibit with live premature babies

In order to promote public awareness he came up with the idea of setting up his own incubators for premature babies on display with real premature babies on show! He charged people to see the small babies and offered the service free to mothers and their premature babies. 

This documentary speaks to some of the survivors who were exhibits at the amusement park. One of the odd side stories to this whole story was the story behind children  going blind.

Once incubators became available in hospitals they provided premature children  a hospital class service. Part of that was to provide  their neonates with highly concentrated oxygen to help them breathe. On the other hand, Dr Couney who had to run his ‘ward’ for free and as a business only gave a mixture of oxygen  and normal air. The neonates exposed to the high concentration of oxygen eventually became blind but the neonates in Dr Couney’s exhibition ward were saved from developing blindness due to retrolental fibroplasia, an unfortunate consequence of exposure to high concentration of oxygen at the neonatal stage. 

A fascinating program, have a listen:

Life Under Glass


Duration: 26:51

Published: Wed, 17 Aug 2016 06:00:00 +0000

The story of the premature babies in incubators on display in amusement park on Coney Island, and how the man who put them there, Martin Couney, changed attitudes to premature babies and saved countless lives


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