Tom and Kelley French finally thank Bruce Springsteen for saving their daughter Juniper's life
Juniper French is 5 years old, "healthy and ferocious and lighting up kindergarten," her parents say.
She's come farther than most in her short life, which began when she was born premature at only 23 weeks gestation — what scientists believe is the absolute limit of human viability outside the womb.
Former Tampa Bay Times writer Kelley Benham French chronicled her daughter's harrowing experience in a series of stories for the Times. She and her husband, Tom French, also a former Times writer, expand on the experience in their new book, Juniper.
Monday, they gave a copy of that book to someone they say helped Juniper hang on to life when she was the most fragile: Bruce Springsteen.
In a blog post titled "Dear Bruce: The Thing We Wanted to Say," Benham French describes playing Springsteen's music for Juniper through an iPod her husband placed inside the incubator.
"She was raw and red, her eyes were fused shut, and through her translucent skin we could see her flickering heart. She couldn’t see, couldn’t cry, couldn’t be fed or held. If we stroked her, they said, her skin could slide off. She knew nothing but needle sticks and isolation and darkness. But she could hear.
"As you know so well, sound is a form of touch. We could see by the numbers on her monitors that your music calmed her when she was in pain and soothed her when she was upset. The monitors even told us that she had particular tastes. Her devotion to "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" never wavered. ... She nearly died a million times, and when her heart rate bottomed out, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" always brought her back. She had never seen the sun, after all."
Last month, the family took Juniper to Louisville, Kentucky to see a Springsteen concert. Monday, they flew to Boston where Springsteen was signing copies of his new memoir, "because we've been trying for five years to find a way to thank you."
Benham French writes that while they didn't get to say much to Springsteen, they posed for a photo (above) and left him a signed copy of Juniper with their thank-you note inside. The note was illustrated with Juniper's sketches of Bruce and the E Street Band.
Juniper apparently didn't mind the brief meeting. Her mother writes that after it was over the girl said, "He already knows me. He sang to me all those songs."