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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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (612 )
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  •  
    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
  •  
    Thug4life Sutton, MA 10-09-13
    Thug4life Sutton, MA 10-09-13 Member Since 2012

    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.


    5 of 8 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
  •  
    karen United States 09-18-13
    karen United States 09-18-13 Member Since 2004
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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.

    12 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimra Tuscola, TX, United States 09-23-14
    Kimra Tuscola, TX, United States 09-23-14 Member Since 2010

    My husband & I share the account. Anything on history is his read. I'm more into fiction/zombie & apocalyptic reads.

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    "Five Days at Memorial"

    The 1st part of the book was excellent. Very interesting about the time spent in the hospital. The 2nd part was unexpected but gave quite a summary of the background on relevant cases and other items key to the story. The narrator was very well spoken and easy to listen to although she did have trouble with some of the local last names.

    I would say that it was time well spent listening to the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George Kuvinka 09-16-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Overwhelmed in the Aftermath of Catastrophe"
    What made the experience of listening to Five Days at Memorial the most enjoyable?

    I didn't know very much about what happened in NOLA hospitals in the aftermath of Katrina. I had read and liked Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and thought this would be a good sequel. It delivered.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    This book is a meditation about medical ethics in circumstances where patient needs exceed available medical resources. It raises essential questions that all medical professionals would do well to contemplate. I am not a medical professional but have recommended this book to MD friends of mine.


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

    Dr. Anna Pou. Although favorite implies liking and the portrayal of Dr. Pou is not that. I thought Dr. Pou was the most interesting and complex character.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I wouldn't say I had an extreme reaction. But I had a lot of empathy mainly for the patients and their families but also for some of the medical professionals who chose to stay and provide care when others left NOLA as Katrina approached.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a good book for general readers and an essential book for medical professionals. There are no easy answers to the questions raised. Hopefully, we can learn from what happened in NOLA hospitals after Katrina. Catastrophe training and preparation is feasible and necessary if hospitals are to better respond to crises in contexts including, but not limited to, natural disasters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 08-05-14
    Carol Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 08-05-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Great Capture of Events and Story"

    I don't know if this book counts as journalism, history or whatever, but it was GOOD. It made you feel like you were there (without the agony of BEING there). The author didn't judge the characters or events which was also good. It shows how quickly society can break down even with the best of intentions and how rapidly the dogs of war come to finish the job. Great moral story and warning (which we will probably ignore).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Karla Washington, DC 07-08-14
    Karla Washington, DC 07-08-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Very long, but well worth it"

    This was a gripping story, well-narrated and well-written. I found Fink's interviews and analysis of euthanasia at the end of the book particularly interesting. It kept me thinking and talking about the issues it covered for weeks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cabrita 07-04-14
    Cabrita 07-04-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Appalling and enthralling"
    Would you listen to Five Days at Memorial again? Why?

    Yes! It is almost hard to believe I heard right the first time. Did this really happen? Just a few years ago, in this supposedly "developed" country??


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

    The whole book blew my mind. As a health care provider it left me wondering how easily any other hospital could end up in the same situation. It makes you ask "what would I do?" and "how can we prevent this?"


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, it just shocked and amazed me in so many ways. I think the author did a great job presenting an unbiased view of what happened, and just making you analyze what we take for granted. It brings up so many ethical questions about what our priorities are and the conflict between business or selfish motivations and really providing care to people. I talked about this book to everyone.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ELEANOR FOWSER 05-14-14 Member Since 2011

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Depressing"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I couldn't get past the second chapter because this book was so disturbing to me. I am a nurse and pray that I'm never put into a situation where I'll face the choices I read about here. Perhaps someone who doesn't identify so closely with the situation could enjoy or at least tolerate this story.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Sheri Fink again?

    Oh yes. It wasn't her writing I had a problem with.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    The performance was adequate.


    What character would you cut from Five Days at Memorial?

    The pet dog that had to be put down.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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