Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Ask Me Why I Hurt

Christiansen's memoir of creating a mobile healthcare service for homeless teenagers is both inspiring and heartbreaking. Dr. Christiansen gave up his hospital appointment to transform an old RV into a mobile clinic. He discovers that there is tremendous demand for his services, and that America's homeless teenagers face multiple and complicated problems.

What is particularly striking is just how tragic the stories of Christiansen's patients are. The majority are homeless because they have run away from abuse. Most have weathered horrible situations. One of his patients lives in a hole in the desert. These children don't just need medical care, they also need attention, compassion, and a competent adult to pay attention to them.

This book highlights the difficulties of providing care to this population. It is nearly impossible to get these children enrolled to receive benefits, as such things require identification and parental help. Likewise, it is prohibitively expensive for Christiansen to stock drugs, but it is generally impossible for homeless teenagers to fill prescriptions, especially regular prescriptions for chronic conditions. The problems that are regularly recognized in the American medical system are magnified for Christiansen.

This book is also something of a personal memoir, as Christiansen is trying to start a family at the same time that he is beginning his work with the mobile clinic. I found the personal memoir to be much less engaging than the professional. Ultimately I left this book inspired by what Christiansen has managed to do, and terribly depressed by the extent of the problems.

Randy Christiansen, M.D., Ask Me Why I Hurt (Broadway, 2011) ISBN: 0307718999

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