JanB 's Reviews > Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri  Fink
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
260116
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: sarah-s-book-shelves-recommendation, audiobook

I'm going to start off my review with links to rebuttals, because I think they are important to include. I think anyone accused should be able to tell their side:
http://www.drannapou.com
http://www.memorialhospitaltruth.com

As the title suggests, this is the account of the 5 days at Memorial Hospital following Hurricane Katrina. There was no power, low supplies, a lack of sanitation creating the stench of sewage that filled the halls, oppressive temps that climbed to the 100s, and there was no hope or relief in sight. The generators, located in the basement, and affected by the rising floodwaters, failed. The lack of emergency preparedness and the lack of support from the corporate owners of the hospital contributed to the feelings of desperation by the staff. Exacerbating the situation were the 7th floor LifeCare patients, the sickest of the sick.

On the third day after the hurricane, the most critical patients, some who were DNR (do not resuscitate), were given drugs to ease their pain, and as some alleged, caused their death. Some called it comfort care while others called it euthanasia. The drug combination given was typically used (in my experience) in hospice care. Were they angels of mercy or angels of death? A physician and two nurses were charged but a grand jury failed to indict.

The book raises many questions:
• Who is evacuated first in an emergency? The sickest, the dying, or those who have a chance at survival? At Memorial the corporate decision was made to evacuate the sickest last.
• Why were generators located in the basement, the first area to flood?
• What is the chain of command during an extreme emergency?
• Does a DNR order mean you don’t try to save in an emergency?
• Which patients gets priority when resources are limited?
• Are we as a nation prepared to deal with disasters of this proportion?

As a nurse, this book was difficult to read as I imagined myself working under such appalling conditions. The health care workers performed above and beyond the call of duty in horrendous circumstances. There were many touching stories of heroic acts.

Memorial lost 45 patients, more than any other hospital in the area. But the entire 7th floor was devoted to LifeCare, the sickest of the sick, many of whom were on life support. With the corporate decision to evacuate these patients last, not first, they languished for days in appalling conditions ( as I later read, 11 of the 45 passed away before the storm hit, but their bodies were in the morgue and so counted among the total).

Although many readers found Part 2 of the book, detailing the legal proceedings, slow, I found the entire book compelling. I do have a couple of issues with the book. One, I think Dr Kevorkian’s case and the euthanasia debate should have been left out of the book, as that wasn’t the core of this case. Secondly, I think a major weakness of the book is that the author uses subtle and not-so-subtle turns of phrases and descriptions so that it’s clear what she thinks of Dr Pou. True investigative journalism keeps bias out of their writing. The author's appearance on the Jon Stewart Show and their laughter and jokes were particularly distasteful, and no doubt painful for the families and health care workers who were affected.

I’m going with 4 stars for the book because it’s highly readable and highlights the need for better emergency preparedness, raising important issues that need to be discussed on a national level. If one hospital struggled so desperately during a time of disaster imagine if there was a large scale national disaster.
20 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Five Days at Memorial.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

June 8, 2017 – Shelved
June 8, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
June 8, 2017 – Shelved as: sarah-s-book-shelves-recommendation
June 14, 2017 – Started Reading
June 14, 2017 – Shelved as: audiobook
June 17, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Brenda (new) - added it

Brenda An outstanding review, Jan!!


JanB Brenda wrote: "An outstanding review, Jan!!"

Brenda, thank you!


message 3: by Dana (new)

Dana What a fantastic review! We had just left New Orleans two days before Katrina hit. So devastating. I can't imagine the conditions the staff worked under. Sounds like an emotional read.


JanB Dana wrote: "What a fantastic review! We had just left New Orleans two days before Katrina hit. So devastating. I can't imagine the conditions the staff worked under. Sounds like an emotional read."

Dana, oh wow, how lucky were you to get out! I can't imagine working under those conditions. It was emotional, but so important for the issues raised. It's frightening to think this this may be a microcosm of society if a large-scale disaster occurs. Kind of makes me understand the survivalists, ha


Brenda - Traveling Sister Excellent review, Jan! I am going to take a closer look at this one. Glad to see it was a good one for you.


message 6: by Esil (new) - added it

Esil This sounds really interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention DeB.


message 7: by Alecia (new)

Alecia Great review, Jan! Your medical/work experience when assessing this book made this review very interesting.


Norma * Traveling Sister Very interesting & excellent review, Jan!


JanB Brenda wrote: "Excellent review, Jan! I am going to take a closer look at this one. Glad to see it was a good one for you."

Brenda, I hope you enjoy it if you get around to reading it. It certainly raises compelling questions!


JanB Esil wrote: "This sounds really interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention DeB."

Esil, thanks!


JanB Alecia wrote: "Great review, Jan! Your medical/work experience when assessing this book made this review very interesting."

Alecia, thanks! I can't believe I waited this long to read it. It was well worth my time and is frightening when you extrapolate what happened at this hospital to society at large.


JanB Norma wrote: "Very interesting & excellent review, Jan!"

Norma, thank you! :-)


message 13: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Super interesting and informative review. Liked your list of questions. You did a good job of keeping it balanced. Thanks!


JanB Debbie wrote: "Super interesting and informative review. Liked your list of questions. You did a good job of keeping it balanced. Thanks!"

Debbie, thank you! You write such awesome reviews I take that as a high compliment :-)


message 15: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie JanB wrote: "Debbie wrote: "Super interesting and informative review. Liked your list of questions. You did a good job of keeping it balanced. Thanks!"

Debbie, thank you! You write such awesome reviews I take ..."


Thank YOU for the big compliment!


JanB Debbie wrote: "JanB wrote: "Debbie wrote: "Super interesting and informative review. Liked your list of questions. You did a good job of keeping it balanced. Thanks!"

Debbie, thank you! You write such awesome re..."


Debbie, 😘


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Wow Jan - FANTASTIC review! This sounds like a very interesting book that would be very difficult to read at times. I can see how it would have been very intense for you to read being that you are a nurse and could picture yourself in that situation. I love the questions you asked - very good 'thinking' questions that made me pause and actually try to answer them - they are not easy questions. Thanks for a very informative and insightful review!


message 18: by Lori (new)

Lori Jan I personally know Dr. Pou and I know what a wonderful person she is and how much she cares for her patients. It made me sick when I saw how the media vilified her, and for that reason I wouldn't touch this book.


JanB Lindsay wrote: "Wow Jan - FANTASTIC review! This sounds like a very interesting book that would be very difficult to read at times. I can see how it would have been very intense for you to read being that you are ..."

Lindsay, thank you for your kind words! :-)


message 20: by JanB (last edited Jun 20, 2017 07:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

JanB Lori wrote: "Jan I personally know Dr. Pou and I know what a wonderful person she is and how much she cares for her patients. It made me sick when I saw how the media vilified her, and for that reason I wouldn'..."

Lori, oh wow, I wish I had known that before I started reading. The author did highlight how well respected Dr Pou is and the great things she does so it seemed incongruous to me for her to have done the things she was accused of. I spent quite a bit of time on the two websites I listed and that's why I put them at the top of my review. I do think corporate mistakes were made and I think the book raises important questions - not about Dr Pou's actions -she's innocent, a grand jury failed to acquit - but about disaster preparedness in general. I'm not such a fan of the author and I'm glad I borrowed this book instead of buying and putting money in her pocket!


message 21: by PattyMacDotComma (new)

PattyMacDotComma Great review, Jan! It's easy for a reader to be wise after the fact, but I know I'd have a terrible time coping in those circumstances. There is nothing that can replace lots of drills for emergencies, I think. Hard to fit them in, but I'm sure they pay off.


back to top