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

It's hard reading about things that really happened.  I tend to stay strictly in the land of make-believe.  I have the kind of job that has me seeing bad things every day, so I usually use my reading to escape that reality.


Well, for a reading challenge over on Goodreads, I tend to have to move out of my nice comfortable world of fiction and read a non-fiction book.  That's how I ended up revisiting my own experiences with Hurricane Katrina and reading Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital.  


I happened to be in Louisiana during the hurricane although I was far away from the storm, my family who lived in the area of Katrina's devastation had been displaced for many months.  My college, which was located in Katrina's path, had suffered major damaged and was closed for a year following the storm.  I was down in the French Quarter three months after Katrina Hit and got to see first hand how bad the city I called home for four years had been affected by the horrible act of Mother Nature.


So, when I had to find a book about with the genre "true crime", I was intrigued by this book that hit home because of my ties to New Orleans as well as the fact that it was dealing with healthcare as I am a healthcare professional.


Hearing about the horrible conditions that sounded more like a third world country then a major city in the United States really hit me hard.  Having the staff at Memorial Hospital have to deal with caring for actual patients under those conditions was even more difficult to hear.  I can't imagine dealing under those circumstances.  I make life and death decisions every day but I get to sleep every night and not have to worry about where my next meal of bottle of water will come from.


But, that final day, where the unthinkable happened, is what really had me on edge for weeks.  People died in that hospital and they died at the hands of healthcare workers.  I know that some of them had been very bad off, but at least one of them was awake, alert and responding to questions just minutes before he was put to death, and that just sits in my stomach like a pit.  


I don't think that the doctors and/or nurses should have been prosecuted per se.  I really don't think they were in their right minds.  They were in unimaginable conditions, with little sleep and little food, in the sweltering heat with no power.  It wasn't an easy situation, but I do think that this should have started an honest dialogue on how to make sure nothing like this EVER happened again.


The thing that makes me so uneasy is that these doctors really never talked about what they did to the patients with anyone but their lawyers.  And if they really think they did the right thing, I don't think that they would be so clammed up.


I have no idea what I would do in a situation like this.  I hope and I pray that I would do the just and humane thing--the thing that would allow me to sleep at night or look in the mirror everyday, but who knows.  What I do know is that what happened at Memorial Hospital is a tragedy on many fronts that I hope we don't see happen ever again.