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Five Days at Memorial Audiobook

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

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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 12-29-13
    thescold40 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
  •  
    Daryl Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 12-21-13
    Daryl Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 12-21-13
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    "Important and tragic work"
    What did you love best about Five Days at Memorial?

    It was a gripping account of what happened at one hospital in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. I had very little difficulty differentiating between who was who and who did what, and that was due in no small part to the author's little reminders here and there.
    Kirsten Potter was a great narrator choice for this book.


    What other book might you compare Five Days at Memorial to and why?

    Hospital by Julie Salamon (spelling?) Five Days was a much ebtter read, for the simple reason that it had a specific event to tie itself to, rather than Hospital (which just kept on going).


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

    A long time ago I heard her read one of the Lisa Gardner books. She did a great job... this one, by its subject matter, was a different type of read, but Ms. Potter is still stunning.


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

    No. I kept having to pick it up and put it down - not because it wasn't interesting, but because there were some passages that were so hard to read.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is a thorough expose on what can happen when hospitals are not prepared in the cases of emergency. While I do not think anything was done maliciously out of poor intentions, the circumstances during those five days at memorial provide a backdrop of how everything that can go wrong, will.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DaWoolf Sutton, MA 10-09-13
    DaWoolf Sutton, MA 10-09-13 Member Since 2015

    I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book.

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    "So much detail!"
    Would you try another book from Sheri Fink and/or Kirsten Potter?

    As a curious person, I often tackle books outside my experience base. However, I was interested in what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina. 5 Days at Memorial (5-Days) is an excellent book for anyone associated with providing medical treatment. Sheri Fink completes a step-by-step analysis into each facet of the tragedy that occurred following Katrina. Fink is an exceptional writer and her ability deconstruct this tragic story is amazing. As a professional not involved in the medical world, I soon became burdened by the relentless detail described in 5-Days. There were so many patients, nurses, doctors, medicines, and government officials that I soon lost track of the story. 5-Days has a heavy and serious tone that is constantly present. Overall, this is an excellent book for lawyers, doctors, nurses, ethicists, and hospital professional. As a curious reader I lost focus about halfway in.


    7 of 11 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 2008
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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
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14 Member Since 2016

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

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    "Whatever You Thought You Knew or Felt..."
    What made the experience of listening to Five Days at Memorial the most enjoyable?

    I can't say that this was an enjoyable listen; it's too hard-hitting for that. I did Animal Rescue after Katrina, and I remember what a horror show, what a nightmare the place was. This book, graphically and with chaotic realism, brought up a whole lot of memories for me. What I appreciated to no end was the amount of detail, the amount of research that went into the writing of this book. From emails and personal accounts, reports from the media to legal documents, everything! Absolutely everything was covered and addressed. And it's delivered in such a factual, unbiased way that you're left to decide for yourself: Was it right? Or was it wrong? Chances are that, if you had strong feelings about what happened, one way or the other, you'll still believe it. But, boy! Your thinking will be unalterably changed by this book! You'll be challenged to no end.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Five Days at Memorial?

    As the book wraps up, and we see the lives of those involved progress and change, some horrific ironies turn up. What about that doctor who now finds himself deathly ill and with "no hope of a positive outcome?" What about that zealot of an investigator, hellbent on prosecution, who finds himself needing/herself with a loved one needing the awesome skills of these doctors they've been thinking of as devils? It's a strange life, a strange world we live in.


    Which character – as performed by Kirsten Potter – was your favorite?

    There are many protagonists that you can't help but root for, whether medical or legal. Many antagonists you boo at. Kristen Potter brings them all out like a skilled documentarian, subtle variations giving each of them a powerful, personable voice. She delivers the facts with a flat skill, delivers each character with power and emotion. No mean feat.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    I was simply blown away by the politics that went into play after the events! And stunned by how each individual, from the doctors to the coroner, the attorney general and staff to the fly-by-night personal claims lawyers painted themselves after the fact. And the way we view treatment and death in America? Extraordinary!


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to this book, thinking, "People don't remember how bad it was. People can't understand unless they were there." But by the end, I honestly, truly wondered: No, really. Was it the right thing to do? I can only get down on my knees and thank God that I've never had to survive something like that to be in the position. You will too.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe R. 10-05-13
    Joe R. 10-05-13

    Gramps

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    "Strip away the fluff and it was simply murder!"
    Any additional comments?

    Yes, the water was rising and yes, the electricity went out and yes, the backup generators finally failed as well and yes, the toilets overflowed. So do we just kill the patients who were within hours of being rescued? The hospital had food, water, and medications. This book isn't about difficult triage decisions which have to be made in a disaster situation e.g., who gets treated or medevaced out first, who gets the last vial of medicine,etc.The patients to whom Dr. Pou gave lethal injections weren't asking to die. She wasn't giving palliative medicine intended to alleviate pain or anxiety. She INTENDED to kill them without having consulted with them or their families. She has never explained why she did it. The story made me angry that she got away with it.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    karen 09-18-13
    karen 09-18-13
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    "Trying to return it...."

    Memorial Hospital apparently had a policy of allowing employees to bring not only their children to work but also their pets, who'd spend the day in hospital-provided kennels. The story opens with an account of two doctors struggling to inject a terrified cat in the heart with a lethal dose of chemicals, trying -- successfully, eventually, after having to chase it and catch it twice --to kill it, allegedly to prevent it's suffering in the impending chaos. They then set about preparing to also kill off the remaining patients who can't be moved.

    That's the point at which I stopped listening. Too much, just too much.

    This is a true story, apparently. We are told these things happened, they were done.

    But for me, I came to realize -- very quickly, in this book -- that there are some true events that I just don't need to hear about. This was just too agonizing for me. Knowing that it's true makes it that much worse.

    I'm trying to return the book, per Audible's return policy. I haven't been successful yet, but this is not a book I want to explore any further. What did I expect? Probably a tale of heroism, courage under impossible circumstances. I wasn't expecting a tale of mass murder of animals and sick people.

    14 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 09-23-16
    Elizabeth 09-23-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Very thought provoking"

    This book was deeply insightful and made me realize the tough decisions medical staff and administration must make during crisis. I found myself sympathetic to all involved. The medical staff, the families, the prosecutors, the defense... Beautifully written to give the reader all views and to come to their own conclusion. In the end, though, it was the epilogue that touched me the most as it captured the moving stories of so many other health facilities who were able to save so many.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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