Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Memory of Nicole

Dr. Christensen was 34 when he started the mobile medical unit in Arizona to help homeless youth. The hospital on wheels, actually a van that needed more than a little tweaking to work, was donated, but getting it functioning and stocked was an exercise in patience. Luckily he had great people on his side, including Jan Putman, a no nonsense nurse-practitioner, and his wife Amy, also a doctor, who understood him putting in long hours. Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them chronicles the beginning of the mobile medical clinic, the kids they saw over those first years, and how working with them affected his family life.

Try to imagine being dropped off on the street as a teenager. You have no money, no place to live, no job, and no way of getting help because you don’t have a valid ID to prove who you are. Now add on lack of coping skills because of childhood abuse or trauma. You are sick because you ate food people threw away; you are exposed to the elements, and exploited by mean people who prey on kids like you. You have been injured and beat-up and you need to see a doctor, but you don’t have health insurance and the county medical services can’t help you without an ID and some type of contact number or address.

This is reality for thousands of kids in every State. Some of these kids ran from abusive homes, some have mental illness, some have lost their parents, some are struggling with addiction and some have aged out of foster care. They don’t have family to count on, they don’t have a support network or mentors and they don’t have a voice in our political process. You may not see them in your neighborhood or you may not recognize that they are homeless, but they are out there hurting. We may not be doctors that can physically heal them, and yet we can do our part. They need us, especially our voices and votes for compassionate change.

I couldn’t put this book down, the stories of the young men and women jumped off the page, and so did the stories of Dr. Christensen’s fellow workers and his family. The chronicle of Nicole really touched me; a beautiful homeless young woman with mental illness languishing on the streets year after year not getting the help or the medications she needed to become whole, made me weep. The courage of these kids, even when everything was against their survival, gave me hope.

I didn’t know anything about Dr. Christensen before receiving this book through the Amazon Vine program. I hope he’ll continue to publish more about his work with the homeless youth.  5 stars ;-)

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