I live in North Texas, so while my town was definitely not directly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I do vividly recall when it happened and remember a lot of the repercussions. I worked at an animal hospital at the time, and we had tons of new patients in the weeks after the hurricane. People who escaped prior to, or immediately after the flooding and needed things like heartworm prevention for their dogs, or vaccinations so they could kennel them somewhere while they put their lives back together. We also saw dozens of stray dogs and cats that rescue groups from my area took in after the flooding. Most of these were never reunited with their owners, which breaks my heart.
“Life and death in the critical first hours of a calamity typically hinged on the preparedness, resources, and abilities of those in the affected community with the power to help themselves and others in their vicinity. Those who did better were those who didn’t wait idly for help to arrive. In the end, with systems crashing and failing, what mattered most and had the greatest immediate effects were the actions and decisions made in the midst of a crisis by individuals.”
Animals come up a lot in Fink’s Five Days at Memorial, although her focus is obviously the humans at Memorial Hospital. I was not aware of this particular story prior to reading this book, but Fink’s research and interviews do an excellent job of painting a picture of what was going on inside Memorial during the first 5 days of Hurricane Katrina, as well as all of the fall-out and legal cases in the months after. Basically, at this one particular hospital, help was very slow to come. A couple of doctors took it into their own hands to euthanize some of their patients rather than waiting for transport.
The book raises a lot of questions regarding the legality as well as morality of these actions. You can kind of tell what Fink’s opinion is, but I think she does a very good job of remaining as unbiased as possible. It’s a tough book to read — the events leading up to the evacuation involve a lot of human and animal suffering. I can’t imagine what I would do under those particular circumstances. Once she ends the section discussing the time in the hospital and moves on to the court cases cases, the story does drag on little bit. It’s hard to make lawsuits terribly interesting. But Fink does a great job of laying everything out.