Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them

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Overview

The unforgettable inspiring memoir of one extraordinary doctor who is saving lives in a most unconventional way Ask Me Why I Hurt is the touching and revealing first-person account of the remarkable work of Dr. Randy Christensen. Trained as a pediatrician, he works not in a typical hospital setting but, rather, in a 38-foot Winnebago that has been refitted as a doctor’s office on wheels. His patients are the city’s homeless adolescents and children.

In the shadow of one affluent American city, Dr. Christensen has dedicated his life to caring for society's throwaway kids—the often-abused, unloved children who live on the streets without access to proper health care, all the while fending off constant threats from thugs, gangs, pimps, and other predators. With the Winnebago as his moveable medical center, Christensen and his team travel around the outskirts of Phoenix, attending to the children and teens who need him most.

With tenderness and humor, Dr. Christensen chronicles everything from the struggles of the van’s early beginnings, to the support system it became for the kids, and the ultimate recognition it has achieved over the years. Along with his immense professional challenges, he also describes the trials and joys he faces while raising a growing family with his wife Amy. By turns poignant, heartbreaking, and charming, Dr. Christensen's story is a gripping and rich memoir of his work and family, one of those rare books that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Library Journal
He's been declared a "CNN Hero" and a "Hero Among Us" by People magazine. Why? Phoenix pediatrician Christensen roams the streets in his Crews'n Healthmobile, providing free mobile health care to thousands of the city's homeless and at-risk adolescents each year. Not just inspiration but a wake-up call for our entire health system; expect some buzz.
Kirkus Reviews

A physician's memoir of his years working with homeless youth.

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.

Refreshingly free of moralistic lectures about the collective failure of the American health-care system, Christensen's book is a wry, sincere story that makes the need for change inescapably obvious.

From the Publisher
“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."
—Kirkus

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307718990
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/12/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

RANDY CHRISTENSEN, M.D., is a staff physician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Since 2000, he has been the medical director of Crews’n Healthmobile, a mobile medical clinic that provides primary and comprehensive medical care to homeless children. Dr. Christensen has been the recipient of several awards for his work, including the CNN Heroes award and People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us.” He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Amy, also a pediatrician, and their three children.

RENE DENFELD is the author of three books, including the international bestseller The New Victorians (1995) and has written for The New York Times Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Oregonian. A passionate advocate for the adoption of foster children, she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all adopted from foster care.

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Table of Contents

1 Crisis 1

2 Moeur Park 31

3 Tell Me 45

4 Mary's Journey 53

5 Donald 69

6 The Heart of Dixie 105

7 Too Soon 123

8 Roulette 145

9 Angie 161

10 Nicole 181

11 UMOM 209

12 Starfish 231

13 Sugar 247

14 Beginnings 259

For More Information and How to Help 267

Acknowledgments 269

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2012

    Love this!

    Opened my eyes, inspired me to help and get involved with my community. I cried, laughed, felt hurt and also excitement for the adolescents in this book. Will def read again and again.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i loved everything about this book. we often read books that bombard us with whats wrong in the world and a bunch of possible solutions that simply serve as a call to action. this book did all of that but also showed the reader what happens what happens when action has taken place. not only did my heart go out to the homeless children and dr.christensen but it also reminded me that there are still good people in the world

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 28, 2011

    Makes me want to do more

    Though not as medical as I would have liked, after reading this book I want to give more to those in need around me, which I would guess is the point.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2011

    Highly recommended

    This book needs to be on the front shelves of every Barnes and Noble store in America. A very powerful book that accurately depicts the dilemmas faced by children in our own society. The stories of the children are written with compassion, and the children themselves show amazing strength. I would never have known about these children, their stories, their lives. The author and the professionals involved with the children are amazing people. The children's stories need to be heard, not only in AZ, but throughout our country. Thank you, Randy Christensen, for writing this book.

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  • Posted April 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Real honest heart felt

    A book that shows the helplessness, the feeling of worthlessness, self loathing, fear and the idea that abused child dont believe they deserve better. The team of people that work with this doctor are the angels that the lucky few get to have pass through their lives. Sometimes we (victims and saviors) dont realize how much of an impact a little help can make. Thank you so much for such an amazing dedication to children.

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    Posted August 17, 2011

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    Posted May 12, 2012

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