10 January 2015

{Fink, Sheri} Five days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-ravaged Hospital

The theme is serious. It narrates what happened in a hospital (Memorial) in New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.I spotted this at Mumbai Airport. The non-fiction aisle carried it, and although the title was not captivating, I had 5 hours to kill, so cheapo that I am, I started to read chapter 1 while standing in the store. It captivated me, so I downloaded it on the kindle app. Technology, ya?

I was in the US at that time. Over a series of days before the Hurricane I remember the dire warnings - catergory 3, then 4, then 5, then 4 again. I recall the Mayor issuing statements. The situation escalated quite quickly to evacuation. Much trouble was expected, much happened. I listened to the stories on NPR but didn't quite internalize the horror till I read this book.

This narration is about patients in the hospital - the tough choices that care-givers had to make - a matter of life and death. It made me really think about my attitude to death. My own personal viewpoint is pragmatic: we all have to die, better prepare our loved ones for it. Your energy might live on, but your physical body will be compost one day. I am also clear that I don't want to prolong my life using artificial means. But not everyone thinks this way. There are people who are hard willed and do not want to die. No matter how sick they are, they are convinced of their need. I feel felt that these individuals were being selfish: taking up resources and prolonging a life that didn't contribute, or had already done the most that it could.

The stories in this book solidly rocked my opinion. What I had completely disregarded was that the "value" of life is in each individuals' hand. They might be sick, but their very presence made people in relationships with them - spouse, children, grandchildren - feel special. They contributed immensely to the mental strength of their kith and kin. So instead of passing judgement on the sickest people, I should be respecting their choice. Sombre realization.

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