Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital Audiobook | Sheri Fink | Audible.com
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Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital | [Sheri Fink]

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

In the tradition of the best writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the listener into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst chaos. After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, September 2013 - I’m more of a fiction reader and listener, but on the occasions when I turn to nonfiction it’s to better understand a compelling story. The best narrative nonfiction – like Unbroken and Devil in the White City – remains with you long after the last chapter has ended, and so is the case with my September pick, which reveals the chaotic details, devastating conditions, and overwhelming emotions that emerged during the five days that hundreds of patients, employees, family members, and pets spent stranded in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina. It’s hard to listen to the events of those days – but almost as impossible to put the book down as author Sheri Fink, who previously won the Pulitzer Prize for her reporting, raises important questions about end-of-life care and how to be better prepared for major disasters. Frightening, fascinating, and highly recommended. —Diana D., Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina - and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice

In the tradition of the best writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the listener into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the listener into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters - and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

©2013 Sheri Fink (P)2013 Random House Audio

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  •  
    thescold40 Wa state 12-29-13
    thescold40 Wa state 12-29-13 Member Since 2010

    thescold40

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    "Disapointing"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This book reads like an insurance report, so dry that the horrific events described seem dull. The book is well researched, but in an effort to be thorough, the author is repetitive, and either she is not interested in providing emotional perspective to the events described or purposely avoided doing so.


    Would you recommend Five Days at Memorial to your friends? Why or why not?

    I was the only one in my book club able to finish this book, probably because I work in medicine and have myself been in a similar (though less intense) situation and I was interested in understanding how other professionals felt during a true emergency. Sadly, this account didn't really contain much insight into how anyone felt, it is completely factual. Now if you are in market for an emotionless analysis of a frightening tragedy, this is the book for you and I recommend it as such.


    Have you listened to any of Kirsten Potter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not listened to any other performances by Kirsten Potter, she did the best she could have done with the material.


    Did Five Days at Memorial inspire you to do anything?

    I did have an interesting discussion with my husband (a physician) about what training medical schools offer in ethics, and about triage in military situations versus inner city settings, and during drills for natural disasters. It would have made a nice essay, far more interesting than this book.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Millville, MA, United States 12-21-13
    Linda Millville, MA, United States 12-21-13 Member Since 2008
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    "captivating - full of lessons we should learn"
    What did you love best about Five Days at Memorial?

    The lessons learned from this horrific event are ones we should be implementing. As demonstrated by events during Hurricane Sandy, we are still woefully prepared for caring for our most fragile during crises. We need to realize that, yes there is global warming - and as we work to bring an end to this mega crisis, the able-bodied need to prepare to take care for the elderly, the too young, the too sick.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The author knows what she speaks of....


    What does Kirsten Potter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Her heart makes the horror more real.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, yes, yes. And I will listen to the story again, and again.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan Rochester, NY, United States 11-06-13
    Jan Rochester, NY, United States 11-06-13 Member Since 2011

    Eclectic, avid listener, favorite book is the one currently in ear.

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    "Can't stop thinking about it -"

    This well research documentary is much larger than 5 days at Memorial, although the first half of the book takes place there. FYI- The prologue is irritating and can just be skipped. The story unfolds with interesting detail as Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans and the power fails. You watch Memorial Hospital descend into chaos as systems and people fail to communicate. Then with the rescue in full swing on the 5th day the Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) patients on the 2nd and 7th floor die within a 3 hour period. Family members were forced to leave as they were euthanized. The 2nd half of the book looks at what happened and why, the court cases, what happened at other hospitals in New Orleans at the time and then forwards to recent problems in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy in New York to see if anything was learned. It is an eye opener and I couldn't stop listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lesley Dahl Southern California 10-19-13
    Lesley Dahl Southern California 10-19-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Would make an excellent book group read"

    This is a book that will grab you from the first few pages and hold your interest to the end. It's well written, well narrated and the kind of book you wish three of your friends were reading at the same time so you could talk with them about it, which is why I think it would be an excellent choice as a book club pick. The likely discussion about the book would be lively and interesting and sure to go off in many directions.

    Highly recommend

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 10-14-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 10-14-13 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "A Must Read"

    This is an interesting book written in a way to provoke thought. Sheri Fink, M.D., Ph.D. did a fairly good job of trying to present the facts in an unbiased way. Fink did a good job in demonstrating the lack of preparedness of the hospital, city, county, state and federal agencies as well as individuals in New Orleans. How many of you reading this book has a plan for your home and family for various disasters you might face? How many of you practice disaster/fire drills with your family? To carry this one step further does your neighborhood have a plan and do you run drills? Fink pointed out in the book all members of a community should participate in discussion, plans to meet the needs for your community instead of a group of expert decide for you. Fink did a good job describing the feelings of the various individual she presented in the book and how they handled the situation. The difference between the Charity Hospital and the more affluent hospital handling the same situation was illuminating. I like the ending of the book and the comparison of what happened with Hurricane Sandy and the New York hospital and their actions knowing what happened in New Orleans. Kirsten Potter did a good job narrating the book. Disasters and pandemics will occur we need to think about this issues Fink bought up in this book and be prepared.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Richmond, British Columbia, Canada 09-17-13
    Anne Richmond, British Columbia, Canada 09-17-13 Member Since 2011

    Avid general reader with a fondness for British and Irish Writers and world history.

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    "Should be Required Reading"

    Unquestionably a book which should be read and discussed by those who are involved in emergency preparedness programs as well as the general public. Well researched, well documented description of conditions at an aging but vital hospital in New Orleans during Katrina as well as historical and subsequent developments and the players involved.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine M. Hosch Covington, LA USA 10-01-13
    Katherine M. Hosch Covington, LA USA 10-01-13 Member Since 2005
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    "A must-read - deserves a Pulitzer"

    I am from the New Orleans area and was one of the many thousands who evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. I was also one of the large population of locals who were offended and dismayed when then-Attorney General Charles Foti arrested a doctor and two nurses who had been at the flooded Memorial hospital during the disaster. Public opinion at the time was squarely behind the hospital staff, largely because we thought that the opportunistic former sheriff was blaming the very people, who saved so many lives, of not being even more heroic. This was my opinion, and that of everyone I talked to - until I read the ProPublica article about conditions at Memorial, published in 2009. That article convinced me that perhaps something very unsavory had happened at the hospital during the disaster.

    And so it was with great interest that I read the reporter's more thorough examination of those days in this book. This book deserves a Pulitzer; it is an unbiased, well balanced and extremely thorough examination of the events at Memorial and the consequences of those events. I also have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and so I was hoping to see a studied examination of the ethical issues surrounding the events, and I was not disappointed. Ms. Fink clearly and accurately explained some of the most basic principles of ethics, and how they were (or were not) applied in this case.

    The overall impression that I had of the medical professionals at Memorial was that they were so over-taxed, over-worked and under-prepared that they were not in a position to make truly rational choices about their sickest patients. To prevent this kind of tragedy in the future, our institutions must determine ahead of time how they will react in a disaster, and the people in those institutions need to cling to their moral principles, rather than abandon them in such a moment of crisis. The contrast of Memorial hospital with Charity hospital is most striking in this regard. Both hospitals were stranded in flood waters and lost power. But at Charity they were prepared and had practiced for just such an event. They evacuated the sickest patients first, not last, and they didn't give any patients lethal injections. Three people died at Charity, compared with forty-five deaths at Memorial, many of those in the last few hours, even as helicopters were arriving en masse to evacuate the hospital. Please read this book.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan ROSLYN HEIGHTS, NY, United States 01-19-14
    Alan ROSLYN HEIGHTS, NY, United States 01-19-14 Member Since 2007
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    "A missed opportunity; a book to avoid"
    What disappointed you about Five Days at Memorial?

    This is a book that could have been so much more had the author had any talent beyond headline grabbing. This book's greatest failure is the author's inability to move the story past the immediacy of tabloid journalism. It reports without any critical analysis leaving the reader, who lacks expertise, with the authorial responsibility to fill in the missing gaps and determine which voices are correct or the most accurate. It's raison d'etre is not how medical institutions function in a crisis but with the accusation that euthanasia was committed. It is an important story. This book might have been important. What happened in New Orleans also happened in New York City after Sandy and may happen again in other cities.

    The book does not cover so many important issues that bubble up from the story being told. It leaves out of its purview the role of privately owned, for profit hospitals in preparing for and responding to these crises. It gives almost no coverage to what happened beyond this hospital on a local, state, Federal level that left medical personal incommunicado, literally in darkness, with no idea when rescue would happen, and in fear of attack either from residents from the surrounding area or from those in equally squalid conditions. She leaves unanswered why the individual most thought was coordinating relief was a private nurse with only a few hours of disaster courses, not a FEMA employee or even in contact with FEMA. Yet the myopia is only a part of the frustration one will experience with this book.

    The only reason this book was written is because allocations that euthanasia occurred at this hospital were made. The author skews the story in order to assign blame when the story she tells is that people in isolation, in desperate straights, without electricity, without, air conditioning, in fear for their safety, suffering from sleep deprivation and hope of rescue as low as could be imagined, were doing their best to deal with the overwhelming challenges they faced. It might be argued that some of these issues are dealt with in the second section of the book. This would be false. The author does write of how medical personal behaved in Haiti after the earthquake. She brings up, briefly, how NYC hospitals managed when Hurricane Sandy struck. But her analysis is always superficial and is essentially useless. In both cases, individuals did not fear isolated. They did not fear for their personal safety. They were in contact with the outside world. They did not feel hopeless and helpless. They remained in control and in communication with the outside world. They were not part of for profit health corporations who had no plan with how to deal with a disaster of this magnitude nor did they feel any urgency to provide support to these beleaguered medical personnel. There is not analysis of health care provided by for-profit hospitals versus publically supported hospitals.

    Then there is the larger issue of life and care of those elderly who are in a persistent vegetative state. The issue is touched upon. Indeed, it is held up as a banner to the reader and the author as a bludgeon to beat individuals she clearly feels behaved improperly. Yet it is a subject that ought to be explored in depth, particularly since it is the costs of these services that are helping to make health care so expensive--and the reasons for-profit health care exists. As important as this subject is from the perspective of policy or morality it is analyzed from the selfish perspective of individual relatives of patients in this hospital or from a moral absolutist position. Even the author seems to suggest that those she believes behaved improperly and who deserved to be held criminally accountable, did so under the best motives. Since her focus never leaves the surface we have no idea why those individuals reached the conclusion that their actions were necessary and the humane because the author's reporting occurred while they were under criminal pearl.

    There is no historical analysis, there is no institutional analysis, there is little that ever does more than scratch the surface of any subject. All voices are granted equal weight and are rarely ever put in larger context. There is no authorial shaping of the story. It is the retelling of a story from the myopic and disjointed perspective of each individual, that had it some shape might have offered a valuable look at how and why people performed how they did.The reader is left screaming at the page at false conclusions made, for cheap attacks or for the superficiality of the information offered and the analysis offered. This may be an important story but it will have to be told by others as this author is lost and whose ability is unequal to the task.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Sheri Fink again?

    Very doubtful.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. C. Starcke New Orleans, LA 12-05-13
    C. C. Starcke New Orleans, LA 12-05-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Dissapointing"
    What disappointed you about Five Days at Memorial?

    It is obvious that Fink did her research and it was easy to trust her facts. I have nothing negative to say on that front. However, her writing style was far from engaging for me. This story is so incredibly intriguing, It makes you think about everything from disaster preparedness to assisted suicide to what you would do for survival... yet I felt the complexities of it were lost in this telling.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The narrator's lack of knowledge regarding the local dialect was horribly distracting throughout this entire book. PLEASE do some research and do not butcher the pronunciation of street names, sir names, common phrases, etc.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 09-23-13
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 09-23-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Haunting"

    It is easy to say that those of us who were not there could never understand and should not judge. But if we are ever to learn we must try to put ourselves in these terrible places and we must be willing to judge. Fink has done an outstanding job providing a balanced and detailed account of what transpired during those hellish five days that so many of us remember watching unfold on television. She speaks for the medical workers, the families and the patients. As a pastor and a lawyer the questions she leaves me with are not related to whether the physicians did the right thing, but how we can help others the next time this happens, and the time after that.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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