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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 (788 )
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  •  
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 01-12-14
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 01-12-14 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "cast of thousands"

    This book presents a compelling story that has real relevance for our time. The story is clearly and carefully told and beautifully read by Kirsten Potter. The problem for a listener is that it has a cast of thousands. All these people are really hard to keep straight, and I can only hope that the printed book has a directory for a reader. A listener will have no trouble getting the overall contours of what happened, but the details of who did what and when were hard for this listener to retain across the length of the narrative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DebaDeb Houston, TX 12-09-13
    DebaDeb Houston, TX 12-09-13 Member Since 2010

    Just looking for an enjoyable story! Books are my passion.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hospitals, Hurricanes and Hardships are deadly!"
    If you could sum up Five Days at Memorial in three words, what would they be?

    The time the doctors killed.


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

    Five Days at Memorial was a first for me. I found myself in it's tight grip from the first word spoken. I was shocked, horrified, and sickened, and yet I couldn't stop listening.


    What about Kirsten Potter’s performance did you like?

    She has a pleasant and easily understood voice.


    If you could give Five Days at Memorial a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Five Days at Memorial, A doctors guide to murder.


    Any additional comments?

    I can only hope I am never in the hospital during a crisis. I informed my family to let me die at home and let God make the decision, not a Doctor with a vile of morphine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Palm City, FL, USA 11-29-13
    Bill Palm City, FL, USA 11-29-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Disappointing read"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, It was not as interesting as I thought it would be


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    As expected.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Kirsten Potter?

    doubtful


    Did Five Days at Memorial inspire you to do anything?

    Yes, be more careful of reading the hype associated with mediocre books!!!


    Any additional comments?

    Thats enough wasted on this book

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Piscopo 10-24-13

    Dan P

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    "Great investigative report"

    This is a true story of how Memorial Hospital's doctors and nurses met the challenges of taking care of patients during and in the aftermath of Katrina. The story will linger with you long after you finish.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen Charlotte, NC, United States 10-20-13
    Eileen Charlotte, NC, United States 10-20-13 Member Since 2007
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    "A Colossal Failure of Leadership and Planning"

    The story is pitiful and thought provoling. It is astounding to learn that so many people were so ill-prepared, especially in a reigon where storms are a common event. People in the hospital were over-worked, under-fed and essentially trying to simply survive in sweltering heat with no information and no hope. This book makes the listener feel their frustration and despair.

    A (small) criticism: if the readers can't pronounce the words, have her look them up before recording the book. It's a book about a hospital, for goodness sake, so the medical words are important to the story. But there is absolutely NO reason why someone who is paid to read can't pronounce the word "deco"!

    Overall, an exceptional book. It should be sub-titled "How NOT to Handle a Tough Situation".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy METAMORA, IN, United States 10-13-13
    Nancy METAMORA, IN, United States 10-13-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A Must Read for anyone in the medical field."
    What did you love best about Five Days at Memorial?

    It captured the raw happenings during and immediately after Katrina.


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

    This book painted a picture of how dependent we are on each other.


    What about Kirsten Potter’s performance did you like?

    Excellent reader. I felt like I was there at Memorial.


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

    As retired registered nurse, this book touched my soul.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Renaghan 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.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blueyes in NJ 09-19-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Who were the real culprits?"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Five Days at Memorial to be better than the print version?

    I did not read the printed version


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The "Cluster F--k" that took place in New Orleans. From the lowliest hospital administrator to the President of the United States (the wealthiest and most compassionate country ever on earth).On one hand you had the selfless, altruistic heroics of the caretakers at Memorial -- operating under deplorable conditions that (fortunately) most of us can only imagine. On the other hand, you had zealous prosecutors full of indignant outrage who were going to make their statement to the community and protect it from these awful medical professionals. Prosecutors, who not once, at least that I heard, thanked those dedicated care takers for the physically arduous and dangerous conditions under which they succeeded beyond the call of duty.I was compelled to think of the horrific dangers everyone in New Orleans faced and the absolute lack of consideration by the various government agencies that our high taxes support.The Calvary should have been riding into N.O. within 24 hours carrying medical supplies, drinking water and food. They should have been prepared with boats, zodiacs and horses.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When the good old boy Cajuns decided to use their boats to assist


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Please do not make this a movie!!!


    Any additional comments?

    Very well written and well read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joyce 09-25-13
    joyce 09-25-13

    Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.

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    "You expect Drs. to care for you? care ABOUT you?!"

    Horrifying story about a big city hospital suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Flooding, no power, no sanitation, almost no help from the outside; that was an awful situation. But it seems to me that the most devastating problem this hospital had was a confused chain of command and a really mystifying lack of common sense among the staff. The facility's 'Disaster Plan' was incomplete, so staff didn't know who had authority to lead; the guy from corporate HQ? Chief of Ops? Chief of Staff? Disaster Coordinator? the patients' doctors, the head nurses, the security guys? Everyone's either barking orders or pointing fingers at other people, and the stupidity of it is almost unbelievable. Amidst the suffering, of which the descriptions are truly heart-rending, no one lower on the food chain, meaning the docs and nurses, dares to make a move without orders from someone else. No common sense is employed. Toilets are not working, but continue to be used until they overflow with waste. What?!? No one thought to line wastebaskets with biohazard bags and replace them as necessary? how simple is that?!?! as the building filled with the aroma of feces in the 100-degree heat, no one could even decide to do that?!?
    When the story of this horror, and the euthanizing of weak patients, was publicized, I sympathized with the doctors and nurses and bought their whole story about 'trying their best to care for' the patients. Now I think they should have been charged with murder; the ones who injected the fatal doses, the pharmacists who abetted them, and all the staff who had failed to start hydrating IVs and give regular medicines because someone who wasn't even on the floor had issued an order not to do so. They were 'just following orders'.
    This is a sickening, infuriating story. The narration was awful, sounding for much of the book like a monotone NPR newsreader.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa Indianapolis, IN, United States 10-06-13
    Teresa Indianapolis, IN, United States 10-06-13 Member Since 2014

    As a person with dyslexia, audio books give me the opportunity to "read" wonderful books that I would otherwise miss. Thank you for this fabulous service.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is all I've talked about recently!"

    Gripping! I couldn't stop listening.

    Part one is a day-by-day you-are-there description of the five days of and after Katrina. Part two is the aftermath.

    Several things colored my perspective on this book:
    1. I was in NO at a convention in July, 2001. Hurricane Dennis was heading our way, and I saw how the media and the locals treated this news. One of our fellow attendees was a FEMA employee who told us how safe our hotel was. It was a place people came to ride out the storms as the families of Memorial employees did.
    2. I work in an outpatient cancer treatment facility. We are a hospital department, but because we are not housed in the hospital (we are in an adjacent professional building), we do not have things like back-up generators for a power outage. This happened a few years ago, and we were not prepared.
    3. The last book I read before this was "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.He discusses that disaster plans are made based on the worst case scenario which is determined by the worst thing that has happened in the past.

    I wanted to read this book because of having been in New Orleans less that two months before. While people were saying, "Why didn't people leave?" I understood why they didn't. I had been there as Hurricane Dennis approached. The national news media made us fear that we were going to be blown to Kansas. The local media treated it like a bad storm. The hotel people and other natives assured us that we were very safe at the hotel. They had been through this before and had a handle on it. We left before Dennis hit and, of course, it diverted.

    The first part of the book puts the reader inside the hospital as things are happening, one day at a time. We have the same narrow vision that the staff had. Orders were given and not questioned. That's the way hospitals work. We feel the fatigue, the despair. No one knew how long this was going to last, what was happening to the other people in the city or even those who were evacuated. The viewpoint is almost claustrophobic.

    Part two is the aftermath. We learn things that we didn't know while we suffered through the five days. I don't want to say too much here. Just suffice it to say that there was a severe lack of leadership, a lot of miscommunication, and poor decisions were made as a result.

    This is a very readable book with the feel of a good edge-of-your seat suspense thriller. The epilogue gives hope that these kinds of decisions won't be made in the future.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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