Search results for ‘Five Days At Memorial’

5 Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

October 10th, 2013 — 11:59 pm

9780307718969_custom-c5e860538756bdf498808fb3144c77d4a46dce7f-s6-c305 Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink – This is a great book for anyone who works in a hospital especially doctors and nurses who realize they could be on call when a disaster might strike. Also include yourself in this group if you are a  hospital administrator or someone who likes to wrestle with ethical dilemmas. Be prepared for a lot of repetition, medical details that may all seem to be almost the same to most people as well as for some dips into the history of this hospital, other disasters and a course in ethics over the years even dating back to ancient times. If you can handle all of this, you really have an exciting, intellectually stimulating book with a look at disaster medicine, making medical and ethical decisions under difficult circumstances and some good legal battles. The main event was the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, which was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. At least 1,833 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods. This book deals with the impact of the storm on Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, which was a 312-bed hospital, which included patients receiving intensive care and a larger section of the hospital where critically ill patients were treated. As the floodwater rose, most of the power in the hospital was irretrievably lost. There was no sanitation, and they were running out of food. Indoor temperatures were as high as 110 F degrees. At one point there were over 2000 people in the hospital as the numbers swelled with families of patients and staff as well as refugees from the surrounding city. The hospital became surrounded by water and there was no way to leave by car. A makeshift helipad was established on the roof but to get there patients, had to be carried up several flights of stairs usually in the dark and passed through a hole in the wall to get to another part of the hospital complex and up additional stairs. There was limited oxygen for these patients and for some the nurses had to squeeze a balloon like device to get the air into their lungs and drip an IV into their veins while going up the stairs. It was difficult getting enough helicopters to remove all the people from the hospital. Decisions had to be made which patients to evacuate first. Should it be the ones that were barely alive and wouldn’t be expected to even survive the trip to another location or perhaps already had a fatal illness where their demise was expected in a few days or should the patients go first who had a better long term outlook but still required hospital care?? Should the preference or order of care be influenced if the patient had a DNR order, meaning do not resuscitate the patient if their heart stops or if they stop breathing. As the first three or four days passed most of the people were evacuated (where they were evacuated to was another problem). There was confusion and questions about the actions by the corporation that owned the hospital and what arrangements they were making to help the stranded hospital’s need for evacuation. Outside the hospital gunshots were heard and there were concerns that looters might enter the hospital by boat. There was a concern about the physical integrity of the old hospital walls. You would think that the National Guard and the US Government should have done a heroic operation to save everyone from the beginning. They apparently were saving people from rooftops of their homes, helping out in the Superdome, which was the place of last resort for the people of New Orleans who weren’t able to escape before the flood, as well as sporadically appearing on the helicopter pad.  In the end there were a small number of doctors and nurses trying to care for the remaining and sickest patients. There was concern that even moving some of them would be fatal. One man was so obese that they couldn’t figure out how to move him. Some patients were clearly in the last hours hours of their lives. Others would soon be that way if they didn’t get more intensive care. One of the remaining doctors along with two nurses was Dr. Anna Pous, a very compassionate and brilliant ENT surgeon who had a history of reconstructing patients with advanced cancer. She found herself faced with the task of trying to relieve the suffering of several remaining patients. It is well known to physicians and nurses who treat dying patients, that morphine often in combination with a rapid acting tranquillizer such as Versed, given intravenous will relieve the pain and agonizing difficulty breathing in the final stages of life. It is also known that this treatment could hasten their demise. Dr. Pous appeared to have made the decision to have several patients receive large doses of morphine and Versed, which would painlessly end their lives. At a  later point in time , this action was felt by some people to be murder. In fact, Dr. Pous  was actually arrested, handcuffed and was with two nurses charged with second-degree murder. The response of the medical community from this hospital and from across the country, the legal and emotional reactions of some of the patient’s families, the media hype and the ethical questions which were being asked, were an important part of this book. The book provides few answers and lots of stimulating questions. The author won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on this subject in the New York Times Magazine. If you are drawn to this subject you will not be disappointed. 

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Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

March 5th, 2015 — 01:32 pm

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector TobarScreen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.26.05 PM

If you were on this planet in 2010 when 33 miners were trapped in Chile  for 69 days, half a mile beneath the earth’s surface, you must have heard about this captivating story. During the first 19 days, they had no contact with the outside world. They only had a few days’ supply of food and the water that they found was at best contaminated. Above ground, their loved ones were gathered near the entrance of the mine and were praying and supporting the Chilean government, as they organized an unprecedented rescue operation. This involved an outpouring of assistance from all over the world. There were three separate plans to drill a hole to reach the trapped miners. There was no guarantee that they would be reached in time to save their lives. Even after one drilling operation broke through to the place where they were gathered and was pounded on by the trapped miners and painted red so the people above would know they were reached, there still was uncertainty whether they would be saved from their underground prison. Soon, food and messages were lowered to them through the small hole and they found out that the world was following their ordeal.

The 33 miners made a pact that if they survived they would all agree to tell their story in a unified way and would share any riches that would be offered to them for the details of their unusual experience. Ultimately, Pulitzer Prize-winning  author of Mexican descent, Hector Tobar, was chosen to write their story in this book. He spent untold hours speaking with the miners and their families, as well as many other people who were involved in this unusual event. Even if the reader knows all the details of the eventual outcome, this book was suspenseful and read like an adventure story which would keep the readers on the edge of their seats. One small example of the human interest that also was found throughout this book is the story of a devoted wife and a loving mistress of the same man, both of whom came to know each other as they waited and prayed for the safety of their men.

The story did not end with the emergence of the miners from the rescue capsule. It was inevitable that they would have psychological issues as a result of their ordeal. I was one of the many mental health experts who was very concerned about the sequelae that they would face (see blog). This book certainly should meet all expectations as a true to life adventure thriller. It is factual, in-depth and captures the human drama of these people. It can stand on its own, or it may be the basis for a documentary film, or a dramatic movie that should be made (or may have already been made or is in process). While I believe this book deserves all the credit that others and myself have heaped upon it, I believe there is even a better recent book of the same genre about another calamitous event. That book is titled Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. It is about the inside story of a New Orleans Hospital isolated and with without electricity during hurricane Katrina. Both of these books are outstanding and should not be missed.

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