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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

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  •  
    ELEANOR FOWSER 05-14-14 Member Since 2011

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Paige Woodruff CT 04-25-14
    Paige Woodruff CT 04-25-14 Member Since 2012
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    "A book everyone should read"

    This book goes on my list of one of the most powerful reads of all time. I think it a must read for every person who might be part of a disaster at some point in their life, which means everyone. It would be an excellent book for an ethics course to read and discuss.

    I found my emotions being sucked all over the place. From anger at the lack of planning and poorly coordinated response to compassion for the filth and terror those whose lives are forever marred from the experience to being utterly confounded by the decisions made by the health care professionals, sometimes understanding but at other times listening with disbelief.

    I do not however stand in judgment. How can I? Unless you were present and experienced the disaster first-hand there is no possible way you can judge anyone for their actions or inaction. It has however made me realize that our values guide our decisions and the decisions we make in the "dark" may look very different in the light so it would be wise to wrestle out some of these life altering choices before a crisis.

    I know this, we as a country failed the people of New Orleans. The epilogue illuminates several similar disasters post Katrina and suggests that we haven't come too far in the years that have passed. Scary stuff. A must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14
    Amazon Customer Seattle, WA USA 04-15-14 Member Since 2012

    The Book Rev

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    "Katrina's Deadly Affect on One Hospitlal"
    What did you love best about Five Days at Memorial?

    I was blown away by the story of courage and sacrifice represented in this valuable look at the affects of Hurricane Katrina upon one hospital and its staff. I was devastated by the conclusions of forensic experts of murder and euthanasia delivered by a few Health Experts. This is an intense and honest story of the human condition under extreme stress and fear. It is told in a non-biased presentation that left me somewhat conflicted.I highly recommend this book!


    What did you like best about this story?

    I especially appreciated the strength of character, the self sacrifice and the sense of responsibility for those unable to care for themselves. This is a story revealing the pinnacle of selflessness and courage in the face of unthinkable devastating conditions. In the light of seemingly insurmountable barriers a small group of professionals sought out answers and implemented difficult solutions.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The scene I especially enjoyed was the successful conclusion of the transportation of the first evacuees, tiny infants, preemies, from Memorial Hospital. It was thought that they would not survive the evacuation but for the work of volunteers they were saved!


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

    The fear of the lawlessness outside, outside of the walls of this tiny enclave, was palpable. I can not imagine forgetting very soon those scenes that produced such terror in the hearts and minds of the health specialists dedicated in saving those who could not care for themselves.


    Any additional comments?

    For those who love the back story of major events, this is a must. This will leave you breathless and at times proud of those individuals working for a common cause in the face of such insurmountable problems.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 04-04-14
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 04-04-14 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

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    "An amazing story with suspect pacing"

    Well, this is a terrifying story. A horrible flood, under-prepared staff members caring for sick patients, no plan for emergencies, and a time frame that stretches on adding day to day. This is the story of Memorial Hospital as it was stranded during Katrina. There is dirt and fear and failing electricity and patients who need hand pumped ventilation and air conditioning. Then the really crazy question: did the staff members euthanize the patients? There's ample evidence that they did.

    The author takes you through the decisions and the points of view in great detail for the five days of the disaster. It's really epic reading and you'll storm through the first half of this book. But the disaster is only the first half. Then we have the legal story, told with the same care for balance and detail, we watch the investigation into Dr. Amanda Pou, who likely ordered the injections. Was she guilty and would she be convicted? This is inherently not as interesting a subject matter and there is less human drama (though the complexities of legal struggle did keep my attention). If this book was more disaster and less legal struggle it would have been perfect. As it stands, it's just really, really good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N8rdoc Canada 03-29-14
    N8rdoc Canada 03-29-14
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    "Important, Thought provoking Book"

    Worth listening to for anyone in health care or disaster preparedness. Very thought provoking-What would you do when caring for seriously ill patients during severe circumstances with little to no outside support? Why were the outcomes at this hospital so different from other New Orleans hospitals during Hurricane Katrina. I did have some trouble keeping people's names straight - not sure if that is because I listened in smaller chunks, or due to the writing or narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Jupiter, FL, United States 03-18-14
    Barbara Jupiter, FL, United States 03-18-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Unbelievable but True!"

    I had heard about some court cases after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, pertaining to the possibility that some people were euthanized in hospitals and nursing homes. I didn't know the outcome. This author brings us the facts of this time -- five days -- after Katrina left and the city began flooding due to broken levees. She describes it day by day, using the words of the various people who were at the hospitals. I ended the book wondering what I would do in their shoes. It resulted in many conversations with nurses I know and adult children of nursing home patients. The last chapter describes new practices put into place for future natural disasters, but it left me slow to criticize what choices people make in critical situations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rose Marie Holt Nampa, ID USA 03-12-14
    Rose Marie Holt Nampa, ID USA 03-12-14 Member Since 2012
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    "The worst, most ignored story of Katrina"
    If you could sum up Five Days at Memorial in three words, what would they be?

    Anyone can talk herself into evil. Anyone can do evil by just going along with someone who claims responsibility for it


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    People were killed needlessly because of foolishness.


    What about Kirsten Potter’s performance did you like?

    It was fine


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    In which the way other hospitals handled Katrina


    Any additional comments?

    I appreciated the author mentioning the Army Corps of Engineers and the failed levies as the cause of the outsized degree of suffering from a hurricane that had become rather tame by the time it hit New Orleans. Harry Shearer's film The Big Uneasy would be a useful companion. Narration of the movie would be a great audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Hoboken, NJ, United States 03-04-14
    Jason Hoboken, NJ, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2013

    I like good books

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    "Eye Opener"
    What did you love best about Five Days at Memorial?

    The book was an amazing true story


    What did you like best about this story?

    The stories of each of the doctors and nureses


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Getting people out of the hospital


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

    That there is a 2 pronged syetem of doctors proscribing medication and nurses administiring it


    Any additional comments?

    Great read and narrarator

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Max 02-16-14
    Max 02-16-14 Member Since 2009
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    "more interesting than I expected"

    I kept putting this listen off because I really wasn't that interested in more about Katrina. But I was quickly drawn in to the well told and interesting account of this event during the storm. Fink has put together a well rounded picture of the people involved, how decisions came about, and the broader implications for our disaster recovery institutions and infrastructure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    01-31-14
    01-31-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Intriguing and interesting"
    What made the experience of listening to Five Days at Memorial the most enjoyable?

    Very interesting look into an event which many of us only experienced from a distance. The book was fair to many sides in this scenario but at times seems to show favoritism towards real people/businesses reflected in this book.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Anna Poe; I was torn on what to think about her


    What about Kirsten Potter’s performance did you like?

    She was clear and put emphasis properly on words


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

    This book made me question some of my thinking on end of life scenarios. I work with an organization which was included in this book and I didn't realize that when I purchased this book. It was hard listening to some of their involvement in this event.


    Any additional comments?

    One of those books that you stay in the car to listen to even when you have arrived at your destination

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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