Book review: Five Days at Memorial. What would you do?

As the title “Five Days at Memorial” implies, this book is about spending 5 days at Memorial Hospital in Louisiana.  However, these 5 days are the 5 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where the power is out, the streets are flooded, generators fail, looters are out and about in the city, resources are scarce, but there are still plenty of sick people needing care.

The beginning of the book starts off a bit sluggishly with a history of the hospital and how it came into being.  Stick with it because it picks up.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this book is the description of moral dilemmas that face caregivers.  How do you triage patients?  How do you determine who gets to be evacuated first, second, etc?  Should it be the ones who are well enough to move on their own?  Should it be the sickest ones because they are the most fragile?  What about those with DNRs?

The author does a great job of describing the circumstances under which caregivers had to make these decisions.  There was a lot of confusion amongst administration, which led to fewer patients being evacuated.    There was despair with both patients and caregivers wondering if they were ever going to be rescued.  There was worry about snipers outside the hospital, and the worry about looters coming into the hospital to steal the precious drug and food supplies.

The most frustrating part of this book (besides the confusion and miscommunications between administration and rescuers) is how people who were at Memorial brought their pets along to save their pets, but then they turned people away who came to the hospital for help.

As you are reading this book, try to put yourself in the position of these caregivers and ask yourself what you would do.  Would you do things differently?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

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