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Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them Hardcover – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
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“The story of Dr. Christensen’s care for homeless teenagers is heartbreaking, but it highlights the everyday tragedies and suffering happening in the shadows of our great country’s accomplishments. Dr. Christensen’s recounting of his work and the stories of his patients reminds us again and again that these are our children and that we must do better by them. This is a must-read for policymakers and anyone who cares about children’s health.”
—Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone

"Dr. Randy Christensen has provided us with a book that is proof positive that there are still heroes among us. These doctors, nurses and social workers labor tirelessly to look after some of our most vulnerable patients - homeless children. In this sensitive and moving portrayal of caring for those most in need, Christensen shows us that it is still possible to make a difference in the world, one patient at a time." 
—Lisa Sanders, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Every Patient Tells A Story, and New York Times Magazine "Diagnosis" Columnist

"This is a remarkable story of what it's like to be on the front lines of medical care for extremely disadvantaged kids.  Dr. Christensen brings to life the realities of America's forgotten and bypassed street youth who struggle to survive.  At the same time, this story is a powerful glimpse into the extraordinary work of doctors and nurses who have devoted their careers to caring for people who have no where else to turn." 
—Dr. Irwin Redlener, President and Co-Founder of the Children’s Health Fund
“Dr. Randy cares more about distressed kids than anyone I have met in 44 years of worldwide reporting.  His moving stories of treating runaways are both comical and heartbreaking.  He is a remarkable Doc!!!”
—Fred Francis, Senior Correspondent NBC News

“[An] inspiring account of a doctor who truly puts his patients’ needs first… With just the right blend of personal history, patient anecdotes, and relevent suggestions for health care improvement, Christensen’s memoir is an uplifting yet sobering read.”
Publishers Weekly

"In 2000, while working at Arizona's Phoenix Children's Hospital, Christensen asked to be assigned a daunting task—leading a mobile health-care unit aimed at serving homeless children. In the world of modern medicine, this was not the obvious way to climb the career ladder toward regular hours and a hefty salary. With a small group of passionately committed providers, Christensen turned this small community-service unit into an integral part of the urban medical landscape. Along the way, he struggled to balance the emotional and psychological demands of treating vulnerable children with the pressures placed on his marriage and family life. Ultimately, the children he encountered on the streets of Phoenix become the real subjects of his memoir, co-authored with journalist Denfield (Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression, 1997, etc.). Christensen’s many subjects include: Sugar, the pregnant young prostitute who found her way to new life; the abused and neglected young man who discovered love in a community home; and a mentally ill young woman whose tragic murder resulted in part from the bureaucratic tangles that prevented anyone from truly helping her. The title of the book comes from the bracelet worn by one patient who was unable to tell the story of the systematic abuse that left her homeless. The author provides numerous heart-rending stories, yet, for such a serious subject, the narrative is written with obvious joy and an impassioned optimism for what health-care providers and communities can achieve."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307718990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307718990
  • ASIN: 0307718999
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Kennedy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't think I've ever read a book that made me feel more like a slug than this story of Dr. Randy Christensen and his work among homeless teens in a mobile medical clinic in Phoenix.

When his hospital begins to talk about founding a mobile medical van to reach homeless children, Dr. Christensen jumps at the chance to start the work. He motors around the bad parts of town aboard his converted Winnebago, battles skeptical medical and government bureaucracies and fundraises for grants and donations to keep the perpetually cash-strapped medical van going. He works at a camp for diabetic children and dutifully does his rounds at the hospital. He works from sunup to way past sundown, dragging his tired and hungry self home day after day, burdened by the sorrows he sees on the street.

What amazed me most was that Dr. Christensen came to his calling in his 30s, after he has finished his medical training, married and is starting his practice and a family. While your 30s can certainly be considered young, it is also the time of life when most of us have already immersed ourselves in our marginally meaningful lives and couldn't summon up the energy to do just one of the things Dr. Christensen does with his life. More power to him!

This is an inspiring story of one man's battles with the pull of the street, the intractability of the healthcare system and government safety nets that are failing his kids, and the daily challenges of a cutting edge medical mission. His stories of kids like Nicole, Sugar, Matt, Donald and Nizhoni will linger in your heart long after you've closed the book. The stories of their successes are inspiring, but the stories of lives that end in tragedy are equally heartwrenching.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sharon E. Cathcart VINE VOICE on March 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've become a great fan of memoirs over time, particularly those about people who go about making a difference in the world around them. First-person accounts of the struggles that often come with doing the proverbial right thing are strengthening to me.

Randy Christensen, MD, has written just such a memoir. "Ask Me Why I Hurt" is the story of how he and a couple of colleagues start a mobile clinic to help the homeless youth of Phoenix, most of whom live in dire situations. Some of them are runaways, some of them are thrown out of their homes, some are victims of sexual and physical abuse. The range of illnesses runs from cockroaches embedded in ears to STDs to MRSA.

Christensen is, at first, determined not to become personally involved in his patients' cases, but he fails -- sometimes to the detriment of his own family life (miscarriages and family issues are discussed in the book, too). As he details the Catch-22 of trying to get long-term care for kids in need (e.g., they can't get Medic-Aid or similar assistance without ID, but can't get ID without a copy of an unobtainable birth certificate), Christensen ably demonstrated to me the need for true and comprehensive health care reform in this country.

Christensen's book was almost impossible to put down. He sheds light on the problems of youth homelessness in this country, and shares the story of some real heroes (for example, a pastor who takes in one of the homeless kids who has been so abused that he has brain damage, and the nurse practitioner whom many of the kids come to view as a mother figure).

Highly recommended for memoir fans and others with an interest in the subject matter.

(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By EJ on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is just a killer, and I mean that in the best way possible. In it, Dr. Randy Christensen describes the first decade in the development of a mobile medical center to care for homeless children in Phoenix, Arizona. The book is devastating but impossible to put down.

The story includes many aspects of the mobile medical center, from obtaining the initial funding, to staffing the van, to various and sundry logistical challenges. But most of all, the book is about the kids that Dr. Christensen meets in his work. Their stories are horrifying, touching, terribly sad, uplifting. The reader is well aware that not all of these stories will end well. But even one happy ending makes the work that Dr. Christensen does worthwhile.

The writing is by no means literary; rather, it is heartfelt. This does not take away from this page-turner of a book, which I finished in 2 days. And these stories need to be read, just as they needed to be told. This book is an absolutely inspiring read, though you may run the risk of feeling the need to go out and help someone when you are finished.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Clevelander83 VINE VOICE on July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're tired of reading books with unrealistically happy endings, you definitely won't find many of those in Ask Me Why I Hurt. Dr. Christensen details the lives of homeless teenagers, and unfortunately, happy endings are hard to come by.

Dr. Christensen describes the work he does with the help of his crew - on the "Big Blue Bus" - with the homeless teens of Phoenix, Arizona. We also get glimpses into his personal life, but the book's focus is on the plight of these children and the effect of the difficult work he does on his family.

Dr. Christensen's writing is honest and candid, making this book all the more heartbreaking. He explores the lives of the teens, the events that led them to a life on the street, and how others can help make a difference. Ask Me Why I Hurt is not an easy read, but one that is very necessary in this day and age.
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