Introduction: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’s Memorial Medical Center became a house of horrors. As floodwaters rose, power failed, and supplies dwindled, eight hundred patients were abandoned by staff who had fled. For five days, those who remained—the sickest and the weakest—struggled to survive. This is their story.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. The levees that were supposed to protect the city from flooding failed, and eighty percent of New Orleans was soon underwater. Thousands of people were stranded, with no way to escape the rising waters.
At Memorial Medical Center, a hospital located in the city’s flooded Ninth Ward,staff members did their best to evacuate patients to safety. But soon it became clear that they would not be able to evacute everyone in time. With the floodwaters continuing to rise and no help forthcoming, they were forced to make a heartbreaking decision: who would live, and who would die?
For five days, those who remained at Memorial—the sickest and the weakest—struggled to survive with dwindling supplies and no electricity or running water. When rescue teams finally arrived on September 1, they found chaos and despair…and a decision that would change the course of many lives forever.
Conclusion: Five Days at Memorial is a searing account of one of the worst natural disasters in American history—and of the gut-wrenching choices that had to be made in its aftermath. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with doctors, nurses, patients’ families, and others involved in the tragedy, as well as on her own reporting experience following Hurricane Katrina, Sheri Fink reconstructs five chaotic days at Memorial Medical Center and tells the chilling story of a medical community pushed to the brink.