Five Days at Memorial

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

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No matter where you stand on how things were handled or who you feel was at fault, we can all stand united in the fact that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the lives of many of its inhabitants.  Investigative Journalist Sherri Fink put together a piece of literary excellence that spans over five days that the hospital staff and patients were trapped inside Memorial Hospital when Hurricane Katrina hit.  The book is broken up into ‘Day 1’, ‘Day 2’ and so on.  It is clear from the writing that Sherri did not leave out any details she uncovered during her six years of investigative work to put this piece together.  She does a wonderful job of giving descriptions to the rancid smells the hospital takes on, the sheer desperation the patients – now prisoners – of the hospital feel, and the pure adrenaline the hospital staff are running on in order to keep from utterly breaking down.  Essentially this whole book presents the reader with the ethical dilemma of “What would you do?” For example, if you knew there were only a certain number of rafts coming to take patients to safety – do you choose the DNR (do not resuscitate) patients? Do you choose the youngest patients? We see the hospital staff have to play God given the meager resources they have access to and you cannot help but take time to analyze the situation for yourself. As the book progresses, you continue to wonder how much worse conditions can get and hungrily anticipate the arrival of help.  This book speaks volumes as to how resilient humans are when faced with large-scale disasters.  It will leave you feeling humbled and grateful for even having just clean water to drink and a warm place to rest your head at night.

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