Ask Me Why I Hurt is the story of a clinic on wheels in Phoenix, AZ. Started by a young pediatrician, Randy Christensen and an experienced nurse practitioner, Jan Putnam, Christensen learns as he works, discovering that techniques and practices that are standard in clinical practice don't work on the streets where the patients don't have access to refrigeration for liquid medicine, electrical outlets for asthma breathing treatments, or even identification that would give them access to medical insurance.
Christensen's clinic serves the city's homeless adolescents and children, and the doctor soon learns that the needs of this populace are so great that the task of ever satisfying all of their medial needs is next to impossible in today's world. These are the forgotten victims of our society, cast out by their families and falling through the cracks of the safety net that is supposed to be offered by social services.
There are many tears in this book, kids who cannot be saved or, worse, the kids who come in for treatment once or twice and then are never seen again so their stories are never finished. But there are victories as well, Christensen and his staff savor these and realize that all of the long hours they put in are worth it.
It is books like this that make me feel that rather than jaunting off on overseas junkets for drop-in visits, lawmakers should be required to spend at least a week volunteering in these front line agencies so they can see the effect their policies have on the people who are trapped at the bottom end of the spectrum. Maybe when they view the dead body of a schizophrenic teen-aged girl who was horribly tortured by her father, they will rethink the policy that requires that adolescents must have identification before they can access mental health services-- how, exactly, is a child who has completely disassociated from her own identity supposed to obtain identification when she can't even tell anyone her real name or where she is from? Maybe when they look into the mouth of a 17-year-old boy who needs dentures because all of his teeth are shattered from years of abuse and decay, they will find ways to make sure that every child has access to regular dental care.
This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. It is a book that everyone should read, but sadly, the ones who need to know the most about the world of homeless adolescents probably won't.
Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Dindy Robinson (DindyRobinson)
"Here is the cat. Here is the world revolving around the cat." Any questions?
Phoenix pediatrician Christensen recounts the past decade spent treating Arizona's homeless youth in his "Big Blue" van in this inspiring account of a doctor who truly puts his patients' needs first. Always drawn to community health care, Christensen—a doctor at the prestigious Phoenix Children's Hospital—jumped at the chance to head a mobile unit that would bring basic medical needs to the area's large population of homeless teenagers. Initial funding came through the Children's Hospital and generous private grants, and Christensen, along with a no-nonsense nurse and cabinets full of basic medication, crammed into a converted Winnebago and drove off to abandoned parking lots to find patients. Nothing prepared him for the onslaught of misery and poverty, as homeless kids came with complaints ranging from infected insect bites to STDs acquired from prostitution. Christensen became not only an advocate within the community by helping the youths find beds in shelters but also offers his expertise in mobile health care to other crisis areas, volunteering in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. With just the right blend of personal history, patient anecdotes, and relevant suggestions for health care improvement, Christensen's memoir is an uplifting yet sobering read. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.