Friday, December 19, 2008

What's twenty tons and sticky?

...a big magnet, that's what. A REALLY big magnet.

This holiday "gift" for VMC's patients arrived yesterday at the end of this crane, and was oh-so carefully lowered down into our diagnostic imaging center in the main hospital. Heavy work for a rainy Wednesday: The 3T (Tesla) magnet weighs forty-four thousand pounds, and so does the sheilded wall we had to remove from the side of the hospital to load it in.

What this means is that we have a new MRI about to come on line! This ultra-efficient, faster, more accurate machine will provide exceptional anatomic detail...and speaking of detail, don't ask me to describe the technical aspects of this gizmo. My little brain will overheat.

Instead, be comforted that Valley Medical Center has world-class experts ready to run the new MRI, and as our patient population increases, we need all the speed and efficiency we can get.

And now we do. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2,000 bikes = ho ho ho!

Allow me to demolish any remaining cynicism you have about the holidays:

Saturday was an incredible day, as hundreds of Silicon Valley volunteers came together to build thousands of bikes for children who might otherwise have nothing – and that’s just the beginning…

Turning Wheels for Kids is a grass-roots group of caring people that became a program of the VMC Foundation a couple years ago. Today’s annual Bike Build began early in the morning at the San Jose Convention Center, when FOUR 18-WHEELERS full of unassembled bikes were unloaded by teams of builders. Volunteers from Juniper, Yahoo, Google, Fox Racing, local bike clubs and just regular folk worked their butts off so that kids could have something new, empowering and healthy for the holidays.

At one point, Sue Runsvold was left speechless…hard to do, if you know Sue! She’s the executive director for TWFK and was presented a check for $20,000 by local construction heroes DPR, Inc. Sue’s a nurse manager as well, so you’d think she was used to surprises. Other firms and groups gave too – thousands more – and the money was nothing compared to the inspiration of seeing the kids get their new shiny bikes.

Brandi Chastain, “Sharkie”, and elected officials joined in as Christmas came early for so many needy families. I could write about it all day and not do it justice…to get a better idea of what this event feels like, check out to see all they offer. Am I proud to be a part of this? Does Rudolph have a shiny shnoz?

P.S. A big hug to Leah Toeniskoetter, VMC Foundation Board Chair and one of Turning Wheels’ greatest champions, for taking these photos. Did you see us on the news?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A gift for Edgar, and a happy Thanksgiving

Edgar Flores was introduced to Silicon Valley on Monday...and by Tuesday morning, Silicon Valley was already doing what it does so well: Helping in a time of need.

Today, a day later, I walked in to the office in the early afternoon to find the VMC Foundation staff sniffing back tears as they opened envelope after generous envelope. Thousands of dollars, yes, but more touching: The cards, letters and wishes of well for a little boy who deserves all good things.

In case you missed this amazing story, please read the article from wonderful Mercury News columnist Patty Fisher, which launched this flood of giving - and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Fisher: A gift for Edgar

By Patty Fisher
Mercury News

Edgar Flores wants to be a doctor when he grows up. And what is it exactly that doctors do?

"They poke," he tells me. "And they help children."

Five-year-old Edgar has become quite an expert on doctors. After a car fire in July 2007 left him burned over 85 percent of his body, he spent five months in the burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and had 16 operations. Several times, his doctors didn't think he would make it.

But Edgar had too many plans to give up.

"I want to grow up to be a doctor and a firefighter,'' he says now. "And a police!"

Weeks after leaving the hospital last December, he was running around and riding his scooter. Last month he was named student of the month in his kindergarten class at Trace Elementary School in San Jose .

"He always does his best," said Kathy Rivera, assistant nurse manager of the burn unit. "He's such a happy child that it makes it hard to feel sorry for him."

Last week, Edgar was back at VMC for more painful skin grafts, and I stopped by to pay him and his parents a visit. The door to his hospital room was decorated with seasonal pictures of turkeys and a cornucopia he had colored in with crayons. He showed me his temporary tattoos — the planet Saturn and a shark — that decorate his arms, which are crisscrossed with marks from skin grafts.

"My nurse, Jennifer, gave me those tattoos," he said proudly.

Edgar is a slender little boy with bright eyes and long, dark eyelashes, the only hair on his head. He has just two fingers on his right hand. Flannel pajamas conceal the scars on his legs, and two bandages on his tummy cover the places where healthy skin had been removed and grafted onto his neck.

He doesn't remember much about the fire. He and his big brother were on their way home from a family gathering in his uncle's Volkswagen van on a warm July day. As they drove through Pacheco Pass on Highway 152, the engine in the rear of the van caught fire.

Edgar, who was strapped in a booster seat in back, couldn't get out. His uncle and 8-year-old brother, Jose, tried to release him. Jose badly burned his hands and face. Eventually another driver stopped and used a knife to cut Edgar out before the fire trucks arrived.

From the day Edgar and Jose arrived at VMC, the family won the hearts of the staff.
"We watched the way the family stepped up, how worried Jose was about his little brother," Rivera said. "We've watched these parents work with Edgar and help him cope with his injuries. He does really well with what he has."

As we stood around Edgar's hospital bed, his mother, Margireta, gently stretched the muscles in his feet. He has a tracheostomy, a permanent opening in his throat, and she needs to clear it several times a day. But she can't keep up with him on the playground.

"All the children know they have to be careful with him," she said in Spanish.

Edgar's father, Miguel, lost his job detailing cars because he spent so much time at the hospital. Since then he has had only occasional construction jobs. MediCal pays for Edgar's treatment, but his parents are having trouble making ends meet. In addition to Jose and Edgar, they have a 3-year-old son, Miguel Jr.

"We have gotten help from family," his father said, "but it has been very, very difficult."
That's when the people who saved Edgar's life stepped in with some extra special caregiving. The nurses in the burn unit passed the hat and raised $720 in three days to help the family pay its rent. Local firefighters pitched in $2,000.

VMC spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said the staff members will provide gifts for the Flores family this Christmas. But they're hoping others in the community will step up and help buy Edgar the present he wants more than anything: a computer.

The injuries to his hands will make it difficult to type or write with a pencil, so it's essential that he adapt to a computer in order to succeed in school.

"He needs something with a touch screen because his fingers aren't strong enough to use a mouse," Alexiou said.

When she first told me Edgar's story, I thought it odd that the burn-unit nurses, who see so many severely injured children, so many family tragedies, would take up the cause of this one little boy. But having met him, I understand.

"He's a very smart little boy with a wonderful attitude," Rivera said. "He has us all wrapped around his little finger."

if you're interested: To help Edgar, mail checks made out to "The Edgar Flores Fund" to the VMC Foundation, 2400 Moorpark Ave. #207, San Jose 95128. Or donate online at

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rebuilding VMC...time to get started!

If you pay taxes in Santa Clara County, then Valley Medical Center quite literally belongs to you.

That’s one of three reasons why we’re going to keep you informed every step of the way as we rebuild Silicon Valley’s largest hospital. It’s all starting pretty much NOW…we’re getting set to knock down the old outpatient building (as soon as everyone is moved out, of course) and make room for the new patient tower. Yes, we’re ready to go this winter, now that Measure A passed with more votes than any other issue on the ballot (including Barack Obama. I know…totally amazing.)

The second reason we’ll keep you up to speed is that it’s required. The Citizen Oversight Committee, mandated as part of Measure A, is coming together to ensure the funds are used wisely and per the will of the voters. Watch this space, as I’ll use it as just one way to share information about this massive and crucial project…I’ll get more specific as decisions are made and timelines set.

The third reason? It’s going to be just SO COOL. The new VMC will be beautiful, state of the art, world-class and way more efficient than the buildings it will replace. I know I speak for the executive team of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System when I say we cannot wait to get going!

The rendering above gives you an idea of what’s coming, and again, we’re not wasting any time. The result will be an absolutely breathtaking VMC - better for patients, and for our commuity.

And why shouldn’t it be? It’s yours.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Measure A WINS!!!!!!

To all who voted for Valley Medical Center: Thank you.

Measure A, as of 5:30am today, has passed with 78% of the vote - well above the 2/3 needed. Wow.

Even in a tough economy, the voters understood. In a huge, complicated ballot, the voters understood. I wish I could go door-to-door and thank everyone who voted YES on Measure A.

Since that's impractical, what we'll do instead is to start building the new parts of Valley Medical Center. We'll start soon - early next year - and we'll keep county residents informed every step of the way. We'll use the funds wisely, and make everyone proud of supporting VMC.

To all those who donated to the campaign, made phone calls, knocked on doors, or helped shape our messages...well, you must have done it right because Santa Clara County responded. This is a great day for health care in Silicon Valley, and a great day for the thousands of people who work for our county's largest hospital. The message has been received: We all need VMC, and Santa Clara County appreciates you.

Now, there's a great deal of work to be done. Let's get on it!

With deep appreciation,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The last great reason to support Measure A...

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of the South Bay Labor Council. Don Gage is the sole Republican on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. What are they doing teaming up for Measure A? Providing some solid reasoning why it deserves support.

Here, then, from today's Mercury News:

Measure A - Saving Lives and Saving Jobs
By Don Gage and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

Special to the Mercury News
Article Launched: 10/28/2008 06:58:29 PM PDT

As the economy slows down, voters tend to focus on one issue above all others — jobs.
So here's some good news in tough times.

Measure A — the Nov. 4 bond that will make Valley Medical Center earthquake proof — will also generate good jobs, a pot load of them.

You've probably noticed one of the effects of the national housing slowdown. Not many new homes are being built. With consumers tightening their belts, not many new stores or factories are breaking ground either. What's the result? Large numbers of construction workers aren't drawing paychecks.

A "yes" vote on Measure A immediately begins to address that problem. Iron workers, electrical workers, plumbers, carpenters, and countless others will be back on the payroll.

Everyone benefits

They'll be building structures that benefit every family in the valley — hospital rooms to protect victims of auto accidents, fires, or major disasters.

And hiring construction workers is just the beginning. When a carpenter isn't working, he also isn't buying. The decline in construction jobs translates into lower sales for cars, appliances, restaurants, home computers, cell phones "... into lower sales for just about everything that is produced in our region. Lower sales mean slower raises, fewer promotions, and eventually layoffs for people in all walks of life.

What voters should remember — and this is a critical point — is that the economic slow down described above can go on for years before it turns around. However, approving projects like Measure A can help shorten the period of decline. Recessions become deep and long because every individual family and business does what seems to make perfect sense for themselves, but the cumulative effect of the individual decisions makes things worse for all of us. A business that sees sales decline, lays off workers. Families experiencing or just worried about layoffs cut back on purchases. This second reduction in buying forces businesses to cut back further. Every individual action is reasonable; together, the result is a painful economic down cycle.

To break the cycle, some significant institution has to take the action that no individual family or business will take. It has to invest and buy right in the middle of bad times. Only the government has the capacity to play this role. As you may have heard, the federal government is planning a massive economic stimulus package to accomplish this task within the next few months. Measure A can be considered an economic stimulus package for Santa Clara County. It will help jump start a pattern of hiring that will spread. According to the multiplier published by the California Trade and Commerce Agency, every new construction job creates an additional 1.12 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Double stimulus

In fact, Measure A provides a double stimulus to the regional economy. If the measure doesn't pass, state law will require in 2013 that the county close important parts of Valley Medical Center. Hundreds of health care personnel will lose their jobs. Their families will stop buying too. That's the last kind of economic impact the valley needs as we struggle through this difficult period.

Our economy will be that much stronger if those nurses, operating room assistants, radiology technicians, and numerous support personnel stay on the job, continue to make purchases, help local businesses survive, and thereby keep the rest of us on the job too.

Measure A can provide this valuable economic stimulus at the same time that it preserves the health and safety of our community. Valley Medical Center is a special kind of business with a special kind of mission. It saves lives. Whose life? Anyone who needs a trauma center or a burn unit or a spinal cord injury center.

In a large metropolitan area, tragedy does strike. It's unexpected. It's unfair. It's cruel. But it does happen, and when it does there is no substitute for the skilled staff and unique equipment that Valley Medical keeps ready 24 hours a day.

Vote Yes on Measure A. You'll be voting to protect your job and to keep Valley Medical Center doing its job — to save lives.

Monday, October 27, 2008

VMC's surgeons help a man breathe on his own

The following story appeared Friday on NBC 11 News, and reminds us why spinal cord injury care at Valley Medical Center is above and beyond...and why we must protect Silicon Valley's largest hospital. Read on!

San Jose Surgeons Help Paralyzed Man Breathe on His Own
Procedure could allow thousands of people to regain critical functions

By Jane Ann Furer

Doctors at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center performed a first of its kind surgery to help a paralyzed man breathe on his own.

Four months ago, 59-year-old Kevin Brady fell at his home in Tucson, Arizona. He broke his neck, fractured his skull and until last week, relied on a ventilator to help him breathe.
Oct. 15, a team of surgeons at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) in San Jose implanted electrodes in the muscles of his diaphragm.

They stimulate the diaphragm's muscles to expand and contract, which pulls air in and out of the lungs.

Those electrodes are connected to a pacemaker that's worn outside the body.

The procedure is significant because it's the first time it's been performed on a recently injured patient.

Doctors say it works because the muscles can still regain function as opposed to someone with an old injury.

"When Kevin's diaphragm muscles recover their strength, he will be able to breathe without a ventilator for longer and longer periods of time," said Dr. Akshat Shah, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at SCVMC. "Even though he came to us with severe pulmonary problems, his progress so far has been remarkable."

SCVMC is one of the first hospitals in the nation to perform such a procedure.

Doctors say it could open the door for hundreds or even thousands of paralyzed Californians to breathe, taste, smell and talk normally for the first time since their injuries.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Access Denied?" ...a groundbreaking new report.

A new study was released today by The Health Trust that shines a light on some major problems in Silicon Valley...problems we can and must solve.

Among the crucial issues contained in their report, Access Denied?, are the alarming lack of hospital beds per capita in our community, and the worstening plight of the uninsured and "under-insured." The stories of VMC's patients in the study are astounding examples of the human spirit...worth your time to read.

This ground-breaking report also points to the seismic mandate facing hospitals in California, which of course Measure A will address if approved by voters on November 4. More on Measure A in today's Mercury News.

Please do find time to read Access Denied? and as always, let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A new baby at VMC!

First, because not everyone reads the Mercury News (but should) on weekends, a very compelling letter from a local hero supporting Measure A on Saturday:

Measure A is a matter of life and death

Measure A is the single most important issue on the ballot in Santa Clara County this November. Every day, police officers and firefighters dispatch ambulances to Valley Medical Center for patients to receive lifesaving trauma services at Valley Medical Center's Level 1 trauma and burn centers.

Regardless of where a person lives in Santa Clara County, chances are they will be taken to Valley Medical Center in the event of a serious accident or emergency, and they would definitely end up in Valley Medical Center's burn center in the event of serious fire and burn injuries.

Measure A is a matter of life and death, and that's why public safety personnel and organizations urge you to vote yes on Measure A.

Art Marshall
President Santa Clara County Firefighters

...and another on Sunday, from a young Saratogan...what this letter doesn't tell you is that Marie crashed her car on graduation day:

Pass Measure A so VMC is here for you

I crashed my Volvo on Highway 9 in Saratoga and the only thing I can remember is lying on the ground next to my open car door. I was rushed to Valley Medical Center's trauma unit. The paramedics were concerned that I might have serious internal injuries. Had Valley Medical Center not been around, there is a very good chance I would have not had the immediate care I needed. With Measure A appearing on the ballot in a couple of weeks, I know how lucky I was to have VMC to care for me after my accident.

Please vote yes on A so that Valley Medical Center will be here for you or your family members when you need it most.

Marie Stark

These letters and others like it are appearing in newspapers every day around Silicon Valley - read your local papers and see!

What I wanted to share with you is that my friend DeAnn had her first baby this week at VMC! After thirty hours of labor, she had a C-section, and 9-pound Zachary was brought into the world!

De shared with me that the whole time she was in pre-natal care, right on up through the birth, she was treated like a princess by the team at VMC. This of course is no surprise to me or you, the alert reader, but it is a surprise to many who still don't get that VMC is probably the safest place to have a baby in Silicon Valley. Congratulations, De and Jamie, on the new addition to your family!

Incidentally, the morning of Zachary's arrival, I was touring a group of young First 5 staff members through VMC, and we shared an elevator ride to up to Labor/Delivery with Dr. Steve Harris, our chair of pediatrics. One of the young staff members, she herself expecting a child, asked if we could see the "nursery" where all the babies could be viewed through the window.

Dr. Harris smiled. "We don't do it like that anymore," he explained. "As soon as we can, we want the babies right there with their moms."

And so it was when I visited De...just hours after a C-section, Zachary was right there in the room with her, gurgling away happily. The way it should be.

Monday, October 13, 2008

High fructose outrage!

Maybe I'm a little late to the Anger Party here, but that's because I don't watch a lot of Discovery Health Channel on TV.

But I did last night, and saw something that has me fuming. The commercial shows two kids arguing about the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in their breakfast cereal, with the kid who explains that it's a natural, nutritious food winning the argument. No kidding.

The ad is paid for by the Corn Refiners Association. On Discovery Health. OMG.

The dangers of HFCS are very well documented, and you can see the results every day at Valley Medical Center. Our patient population of obese children and adults is growing fast, and HFCS, which is found in darn near every processed food sold inexpensively in America, is a major culprit.

I agree that as individuals we are all responsible for our food choices, but it gets pretty hard when ads like this, combined with McDonalds and Burger King selling cheap quick (unhealthy) food, tell undereducated consumers what they want to hear (eat and drink up; it's good for you!)

Physicians have an uphill battle, and the foe has squillions of dollars to spend selling their a population that is on track to not outlive their parents - for the first time in human history.

Yes yes, I know overconsumption of ALL sugar is we at the VMC Foundation will continue raising funds to support our Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center and diabetes education programs. This year, the county Board of Supervisors called for a "Soda-Free Summer". Can we make it through fall and winter, too?

If you want to help, please donate at Thanks!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Trauma Team saves a life under extraordiary circumstances...

The best place to perform emergency trauma surgery is in an O.R.

But when that's impossible, VMC's trauma team will go the extra mile(s) to save a life. That's what happened this week, as the following incredible story graphically describes:

San Martin winery employee loses leg after accident; doctors perform amputation on site

By Lisa Fernandez
Mercury News 10-8-08

A 20-year-old man working at a San Martin winery lost his right leg after he got caught in a piece of equipment used to drill holes in wine barrels.

Mike Van Loben Sels, battalion chief for the South Santa Clara County Fire Protection District, said the accident was reported at 9:47 p.m. Monday at ASV Wines, 12805 Llagas Road.

The employee's leg was caught in an auger — a large spiral screw used in different parts of the wine production process, such as removing grape skins.

Valley Medical Center doctors flew by helicopter to the winery and helped extract the man from the machine.

Dr. John Sherk, chief trauma surgeon, and anesthesiologist Dr. Barry Waddell amputated the man's right leg at mid-thigh, before he was taken to Valley Medical in San Jose.

"It's amazing,'' said hospital spokeswoman Amy Carta. "The community should know that doctors go out to the site when necessary.''

Sunday, October 5, 2008

When a registered nurse speaks, people listen...

I am reminded often that my voice is, by definition, only so effective…after all, I get paid to say nice things about Valley Medical Center.

So when a woman who gets paid to provide health care to people offers a strong opinion on Measure A, it just means infinitely more.

Cynics might say “oh, she’s just watching out for her job.” Rubbish. The nursing shortage in this nation means she can work where she likes, whether VMC remains or not. Anyway, the following ran in yesterday’s Mercury News, and if you are interested in hearing more, please come to the Info Rally and news conference on Tuesday Oct. 7 at VMC, high noon:

Vote yes on A for sake of health

I am writing to encourage voters to vote yes on Measure A on Nov. 4. This measure provides funding for the seismic upgrades to our county hospital, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC). After the 1994 Northridge earthquake shut down 11 Southern California hospitals, the state Legislature passed a law (SB 1953) requiring hospitals and other public buildings to meet certain earthquake safety standards. If these standards are not met by 2013, the buildings must shut down.

VMC will lose over half its beds should this measure be defeated. The residents of Santa Clara County cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow the loss of our renowned adult and pediatric trauma and burn centers.

If Measure A is defeated, you can only imagine what it would feel like to learn that your badly burned child must be flown 100 miles away to the next nearest burn center. Some voters may feel that because they have private insurance they won't go to "The County," but think again. No matter where you go for health care, chances are that if you are hurt, you will be taken to VMC.

As a registered nurse working for our county residents at VMC, I implore you to get to the polls Nov. 4 and cast your "yes" vote for Measure A.

Deborah Gazay

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Saving the world, one YouTube video at a time...

We posted another video today with your Humble Blogger's recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers, talking about Measure here to check it out, and share with others.

However, this is not the most exciting video of the day - imagine that. Yes, while looking for the URL for the video above, I discovered a gem: David Garibaldi, our fabulous entertainment from the VMC Foundation spring fling, "Vino & Vistas", amazing the audience with his skills...this one you MUST SEE.

More coming soon, as YouTube is fast replacing that outmoded communication method we used to call "reading". Hey, just kidding, my newspaper friends!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Gala and Measure A Support!

I've figured out about blogging: If you do it right, you don't really need to write much...just point out great writing that others have done - such a snap!

We're so glad that the Mercury News truly understands Valley Medical Center, as their lead editorial today urging a YES vote on Measure A clearly demonstrates:

"When Silicon Valley residents go to a hospital, they expect to receive quality care utilizing the latest advances in technology. That holds true at Valley Medical Center today. But it won't five years from now unless Santa Clara County voters approve Measure A..." Read the full story here.

Also today in the Merc, our pal Sal Pizarro shared his thoughts on our 20th Anniversary Gala...and I'll share mine: A HUGE SUCCESS! I cannot thank everyone enough for the work and support and sponsorships that made "Dancing On Top of the World" so much fun, but a few that we really must:

  • Our lead sponsors: Anshen + Allen Architects, Deloitte, The Sobrato Foundation, the Sorci Family Foundation, attorney Richard Alexander and Burrell School Vineyards.

  • Vince, Meghan, and all at Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme - hands down the best event and catering team in the valley...they did the impossible. Again.

  • Narpat and Chandra Bhandari, who opened their amazing home for us.

  • The Board of the VMC Foundation, and our tireless staff...especially JUDY MAASSEN, who did the lion's share of the work!

Our friend Chris Johnson took lots of great photos*, which you will see soon in all the papers, but Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme did too: Check 'em out! We danced the night away thanks to David Dumont's Li'l Big Band, and our volunteers kept things running smoothly - except the program, which I sort of torpedoed because, frankly, everyone was having too much fun to stop and listen to a speech.

Still, it would have been fun to tell the story of our founding, and thank the founders that were in the room: Brenna Bolger, Dr. Bob Violante, Susie Wilson, Gerry Beemiller, and Peggy Fleming-Jenkins and Greg Jenkins. Thanking John and Sue Sobrato and singing "Happy Birthday" to our board chair, Leah Toeniskoetter, would have been fun too. Instead, you got to read this, and also Sal's column:

Pizarro: Valley Medical Center supporters kick up their heels at 20th anniversary gala
By Sal Pizarro Mercury News

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Valley Medical Center Foundation wanted its annual fundraising gala to be a truly special event. Saturday night's "Dancing on Top of the World" certainly qualified on that account.

More than 400 people in black-tie and evening gowns flocked to the beautiful, chateau-like home of Chandra and Narpat Bhandari in the Los Gatos hills, where they took in sweeping views of Silicon Valley and danced the night away in a gorgeous ballroom to the sounds of David Dumont's Lil' Big Band.

Guests were spread throughout several rooms and the grounds for dinner, so there were new faces to greet every time you walked into a room. I didn't run into some people until the evening's end, when everyone was waiting at the great common denominator: the line for the shuttle to get back down the hill.

Chris Wilder, the VMC Foundation's executive director, made a really smart call (suggested, I'm told, by John and Sue Sobrato) to cancel the program and auction portion of the night so as not to interrupt the fun, lively vibe.

But I know what Wilder would have told the crowd if they had been herded into the estate's grand ballroom: The lack of organized opposition to Measure A, the $840 million bond measure to seismically retrofit Valley Medical Center, doesn't mean the hospital's supporters should be complacent. The crowded November ballot means getting positive word out about the measure is more important than ever.

*The one above features Saratoga City Councilmember and Santa Clara Family Health Foundation Exec. Director Kathleen King, Heffernan Insurance's Joseph Talmadge, TBI Development's and VMC Foundation Chair Leah Toeniskoetter, and County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Bucket List

Starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I figured this Rob Reiner-directed flick would be well-acted, but shallow. Wrong! A poignient film with lots of good messages, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Oh - except for what we pro movie reviewers call a "continuity error" right near the beginning. Continuity errors make it difficult to "suspend disbelief" in the "plotline" and often have us reaching for the "eject button" in favor of "Monty Python reruns". Fortunately, I powered through it.

What was the error? Nicholson's caracter is a hospital owner who insists on two-bed rooms for patients, which he sees as a way to save money or something. But here's the thing: Folks who run hospitals in this day and age know full well that the future is private, single bed rooms!

And guess why? It's better for the patients, AND, better for the hospital! Single bed rooms offer more privacy, ease of visitation and better rest...but they also offer better control of infection, and higher utilization, since you don't have to worry about male/female issues, adult/child issues, and a host of other reasons that your humble movie reviewer is just learning about.

SO, Nicholson's caracter would never insist on shared bed rooms...single bed, private rooms are more efficient any way you look at it. So, if Measure A passes on the November ballot, Valley Medical Center will begin construction on a new patient bed tower - and yes, they will be private suites, unlike some of the older parts of Silicon Valley's largest hospital.

Ah, you thought I'd never work Measure A into this post, didn't you. Silly you. Anyway, now you have a good movie to rent this Memorial Day weekend, and another reason to support Measure A. Doesn't that feel good?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Valley Medical Center: When old was new...

Friends, I just had to share this fantastic photo of Valley Medical Center's "new main" hospital. New, of course, in 1965. That's when we're quite sure this was taken. You car buffs can probably tell me if that's correct.

What I can tell you for sure is that for 50 years, starting in 1960 and continuing today, this building has helped serve Santa Clara County's health care needs. It saw to the training of one in four doctors who practice in Silicon Valley. It saw the patient population served by VMC go up hundreds of percentage points. Hundreds!

Fifty years is a good run for a huge hospital building, especially in earth quake country. Health care technology has advanced at a mind-boggling pace, and it's time to replace this old structure. The state mandates it, and the fault lines around us call for fast action. Measure A can make it happen, and it's replacement should last far longer than 50 years, providing generations in our community with life-saving services, delivered by the best MD's, RN's, techs and volunteers anywhere.

Oh yeah...and if we don't, this community is in big trouble. can tell you more. Thanks to the VMC Historical Society for this great photo - more to come, everyone!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When all around you is collapsing...

...your hospital better not.

Judy is my neighbor, and her life was saved by Valley Medical Center when her house crushed her in the Quake of 1989. It seems strange to call Judy "lucky", but that's how she feels looking back on the hours after the second floor of her Los Gatos home landed on top of her as she tried to escape.

Judy is my neighbor, and her story is so compelling that we wanted to capture it on film. It's wrong to say this is a low-budget production, because that would imply that we had SOME kind of budget. So, this likely won't win us an Academy Award - but if they gave Oscars out for saving lives, my neighbors - and the trauma team at VMC - would deserve one.

The point is this: We don't know when the next life-threatening earthquake will hit, but we know it's coming. Parts of Valley Medical Center need to be replaced because they don't meet seismic standards for a quake much larger than the one in 1989. And Judy knows that if VMC had not been there for her, she wouldn't be here today. Period.

Please watch this short video (send it to your personal email if your employer blocks YouTube) and then visit to learn about Measure A on the November ballot.

Then ask yourself the question I opened with: When all around you is collapsing, shouldn't your hospital remain at the ready?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Seen any good movies lately?

When we redesigned the VMC Foundation website last year, we thought it would be fun to post videos on YouTube to show off parts of Silicon Valley's biggest, busiest hospital.

By "we", I mean me and a couple of our staff members, including Michael Elliott, Director of Program Development. Our goal was to share some of what goes on at VMC, our work in the community - especially for folks who haven't been on a tour of our campus (I recommend them).

They were not designed to be high-budget, big-production jobs starring Ben Stiller (at least not yet) or Paris Hilton (not ever), but rather a new way to share information. You can see our past episodes of "VMC Foundation TV" at the bottom of our home page at (If your employer blocks access to YouTube, just send this link to your personal account.)

But today, a NEW video has been completed, and I'm really excited about it. This one was specifically requested by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to exemplify our work to enhance nursing practices at VMC on our journey to "Magnet Status" - that's the highest level of nursing designation a hospital can get, and VMC is the ONLY public hospital so far to apply for this top honor.

So that means big name actors, gourmet deli trays and gaffers, right? WRONG! It's all about the story that one nurse has to tell, and the audience will be the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Board of Directors, not the Hollywood A-List. Michael Elliott may not win his first directing Oscar for this one, but he did succeed in helping share our story with one of the VMC Foundation's most important collaborators. We hope they enjoy it as much as you do, but please don't nominate Linda Fenn, R.N., for a Best Actress award...she's not acting.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Day in the Sky for kids in San Jose...

Saturday, August 9, was an amazing day for kids with special needs who came to the VMC Foundation's "Day In the Sky" event.

Truly, I'm humbled that the VMC Foundation was even associated with this event...we were the main fiscal sponsors, for sure, but hats are WAY off to Dean McCully and Lisa Bickford who organized the bulk of the work, and without whom it would NOT have happened.

Hundreds of children with autism, ADHD, and lots of other challenges soared above Silicon Valley thanks to dozens of voluteer pilots, including Chris Malachowski, who founded Nvidia and who also owns and flies a helecoptor. Chris and his family are also generous donors to the VMC Foundation's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The San Jose Mercury News covered the big event, starting below...but read the full story - you'll be totally inspired, and thrilled that VMC Foundation volunteers like Dean and Lisa are looking out for kids in our community. Check it out:

Emerging from a Cessna that had finished flitting over Silicon Valley's treetops and tilt-ups, 16-year-old Ryan Brown's first-ever jaunt in a small plane made him give an excited little jump when asked if it was fun.

"It sure was," shouted the soon-to-be 10th-grader at San Jose's Del Mar High. According to his mom, Moira Brown, Ryan suffers from autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Noting that the pilot allowed him to briefly operate the controls, the teen added, "The best thing about it was learning to fly."

Mission accomplished for the organizers of "Take Flight for Kids," hosted Saturday at San Jose's Reid-Hillview Airport by the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Corporate citizenship is alive in Silicon Valley!

This morning I read Time Magazine's article on corporate social responsibility/history of capitalism, written by a man who knows (Bill Gates). It's a very well done piece, with a national and global perspective.

How the issue plays here in Silicon Valley is one of my favorite topics...and the timing of the article is amazing.

You see, when I finished reading the piece in Time, I drove to a meeting of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a very powerful organization made up of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. Founded by David Packard and led by Carl Guardino, SVLG looks out for the interests of Silicon Valley corporations.

But here's the cool part: They look out for the entire community's well-being too...and not as an aside, but as a MAJOR focus of their work. SVLG's members understand that corporate profits ring pretty hollow without good schools, transportation, housing and, yes, HEALTH CARE for everyone.

So it comes as no surprise that they enthusiastically endorsed Measure A today, the bond to safeguard Valley Medical Center. New to this blog? Read a couple posts below for more info on this important measure, which Santa Clara County voters can approve this November.

The SVLG's endorsement of Measure A adds them to a long list of supporters, and it's growing fast. I think that David Packard - and Bill Gates - would be proud.

Wanna learn more? Call Elizabeth at the campaign at 408-888-0397.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hooked on Reality TV?

Real emergencies happen every day...maybe not to you, thankfully, but they have - and they will again. Are you prepared?

You may have missed this fantastic article in the Mercury News from earlier this spring, and since we have kind permission from the Newspaper of Silicon Valley to reprint it, I'm sharing it with you today. Kirstin Hofmann directs the County Office of Emergency Services, and Dr. Fenstersheib is the Public Health Officer for the county. Between them, they have the power to close all the schools and hockey games in the county with a single phone call. Woah.

They also have taken a critically important issue and made it fun to read, so enjoy:

Hooked on reality TV? Get ready for some reality of your own
By Kirstin Hofmann and Marty Fenstersheib

Article Launched: 05/12/2008 01:32:08 AM PDT

Americans seem to be sharing an obsession with the "real life" of others. While we are watching more and more reality TV shows, we are ignoring a critical reality of our own.

We all know that there will be an earthquake of a major magnitude, as well as other emergencies like fires and floods or pandemic flu. Yet we constantly avoid dealing with that reality. This denial makes us dangerously unprepared to effectively respond to these real emergencies.

Here's more reality. While Washington and Sacramento talk a lot about emergency preparedness, public dollars and resources for preparedness are limited and quickly disappearing. And one of the biggest realities we need to face is that government can't do it alone. We all share responsibility for being prepared.

In Santa Clara County, local governments have taken their responsibility seriously and have undertaken a number of preparedness activities. For example, Santa Clara County government has embarked on an intensive, comprehensive effort to educate, inform and train county personnel to respond effectively to emergencies that affect the health and welfare of our community.

But these activities point to another reality - preparedness will never be finished. Even if every public agency were able to do all it wanted to do, business, community organizations, the news media, schools, individuals and families have to get ready, too. That's real.

All of us - in government, the news media, businesses, schools and other community organizations - have a shared responsibility to prepare for basic emergencies. The reality is that we will be on our own for at least the initial period of any disaster. How well will we do? If all of us, including individuals and families, are not prepared at the most basic level, we will not do very well.

We all need to hold our own "reality" rehearsals and get ready for a major emergency event. Whether it's finally having your family emergency plan in place, knowing what steps your employer has taken to deal with the aftermath of an earthquake, or helping your kid's school prepare for pandemic flu, it is critically important that we all do our part.

It isn't all that difficult to get started. By doing just three things you will help yourself, your loved ones and your community.

• Have a basic family communication plan: who's calling whom, lists for everyone with the phone numbers to call (and loaded into cell phones) and an out-of-the-area number to call when local lines are overloaded.

• Shop for basic supplies like a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, flashlights that work and more batteries, food and water, and throw in some extra trash bags.

• Put a first aid kit together and include items that would be useful in a pandemic flu: supplies of face masks and plastic gloves, medicines that treat flu symptoms like ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin and cough medicine. Include disinfectants to clean surfaces where the virus may linger.

We know this is a community of people who are strong, resilient, independent and compassionate. In most cases, we are able to take care of ourselves. We understand the value and benefit in reaching out and helping others. It will take all of us being aware, prepared and ready to successfully deal with the real world we live in - a world where disasters do strike.

You can find out more about how to prepare for emergencies by visiting the Santa Clara County's Office of Emergency Web site at; the Santa Clara County Public Health Web site at, and other emergency preparedness Web sites, including

KIRSTIN HOFMANN is the Santa Clara County Director of Emergency Services. MARTY FENSTERSHEIB is the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System Health Officer, Public Health Department.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday's Mercury News: Telling the story of VMC

Today's Mercury News has done it, yet again. The alert reader of this blog is used to seeing us point out that the Newspaper of Silicon Valley does us proud...seems like every week there's at least one feature on why WE ALL NEED VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER.

How about two at once? First, today's lead editorial describing the crisis of Santa Clara County having so few hospital beds...and how much worse it could get. The Merc reminds us how we "lost San Jose Medical Center's 302 beds in 2004, when the corporate owner realized it could not afford to rebuild or retrofit the facility to meet state seismic standards. If Los Gatos Community Hospital's 143 beds disappear next spring, the shortage during a disaster could be serious."

They go on to describe the $840M bond measure to bring VMC to seismic compliance - Measure A, of course. Read the whole thing here - it's an excellent editorial.

Second, a super front page story on childhood obesity, and how the family unit is the key to kids eating healthy. Kudos to Dr. Dan Delgado and his Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center, funded in part by the VMC Foundation and our generous donors like the Myra Reinhard Family Foundation, Kaiser, and others. Check it out's a reminder that VMC is not just about making you well when you're sick: It's about keeping you healthy in the first place.

And keeping VMC here, open, with all 524 licenced beds intact, is crucial for the health of Silicon Valley. Spread the word!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Relying on cuts alone will devastate our health care system

Earthquakes are a real threat. Yet, there are other ways that Santa Clara County's health care system could fall apart.

In Today's Mercury News, Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System CEO Kim Roberts puts it like this: "It is no exaggeration to say that Valley Medical Center is the cornerstone of the county's health care system. Without it, our county health care system would collapse.

"I'm not being dramatic. it would, in fact, collapse."

Not convinced? Read her Special to the Mercury News...because facts are facts.

Medical care in our community is absolutely at risk, and whether we're discussing seismic safety or Schwarzenegger's proposed draconian cuts, WE ALL have a role to play in solving this crisis.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 want a humbling experience?

Now, I know I'm not the first person to Google themselves...but really - how many people find out that they share a name with a famous serial killer?

Yep. Especially because I'm trying to educate folks about Measure A on the November ballot, I figured it would be important that they be able to find me on line. Oops! That's not me...that's, uh...some other guy! Who killed people. Bad luck? Yes. I'm not even REMOTELY related to that Chris Wilder. Honest.

So, then I Googled "Chris Wilder Health" and found a cool copy of Connections, the employee magazine for those who work for the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System. It's over four years old, but it told me three things:

1. The mission of the VMC Foundation hasn't changed - we're still at it, with all enthusiasm!
2. The photo, taken a full 12 years ago, shows I could use some time on the stairmaster.
3. We've got to figure out a way to get "googlers" to get to , right?


I'm no Internet expert, so I'll share this with my brillaint staff and they'll help me figure out how to get more traffic to our website, and to info about Measure A, and not to a serial killer. I mean, honestly...killing Captain Crunch? King Vitamin? Too horrible.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leah's wild ride!

Leah Toeniskoetter (left) is the Board Chair of the VMC Foundation, and a bit of an understated overachiever. If you read the post below this one, you know how passionate she is about Valley Medical Center (that's your cue to read it if you haven't already).

She's also passionate about cycling, and the two passions meet each year at the Death Ride. Leah completed it Saturday - 135 miles up and down the California Alps...15,000 feet of elevation change. I sounds totally bananas, yet hundreds complete the ride each year.

But Leah didn't do it just for herself: She did it for the VMC Foundation program called "Turning Wheels for Kids." More and more children battle obesity and a sedentary life every year, and a bicycle can provide a way out. Leah, personally I am astounded. Professionally, I'm so grateful for the $10,000 + your ride raised. WAY TO GO!!!

(Oh...and the photo up top shows San Francisco 49'er players riding bikes they helped build for Turning Wheels late last year...they'll do it again this year as well. Want to help? Give us a call.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did you feel the quake?

Yes - we had a small earthquake early this morning in San Jose. Yet another reminder of the discussion, growing louder every day, about how we must safeguard our community's largest hospital - Valley Medical Center - in case the next one is NOT a small earthquake.

Seismologists agree with we who grew up here: It's not a matter of "if", but "when".

Please read today's Op/Ed piece in the Mercury News by our own Leah Toeniskoetter, Chair of the VMC Foundation Board of makes the point far more eloquently than I could. It starts like this:

Last month's devastating earthquake in China's Sichuan province, in which thousands died and more than 270,000 were injured, has once again focused California's attention on our own vulerability to this type of tragedy.

Please read on by clicking here. Thanks, and by all means, spread the word.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Silicon Valley losing another hospital?

A story appeared in the San Jose Mercury News this week that you may have missed...but to paraphrase Paul Harvey, it could be "the day's news of most lasting significance".

The story reports that Los Gatos Community Hospital's future is in doubt, as Tenet Healthcare Corporation - LGCH's operator - will not renew their lease next year. Scary, since we already have fewer hospital beds per capita in the South Bay than any other urban center in America.

True. I attended the National Association of Public Hospital's annual conference last week, and learned that the nation's average is 2.7 beds per 1,000 residents. In our community, it's about half that. If we lose Los Gatos Community Hospital next year--not three years after San Jose Medical Center closed--well, we'd have a problem.

But that problem will seem minor compared to what would happen if Santa Clara Valley Medical Center loses half its beds. That's what Santa Clara County is trying to avoid by placing Measure A on the November Ballot. If passed, the alert reader of this blog will recall, SCVMC would be able to meet state seismic safety law by rebuilding the oldest parts of our hospital.

If not, best estimates are that 11,000 people a year who need a hospital bed would be unable to find one available. Lives truly hang in the balance. Please watch this space as this story develops...and let me know what you think:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Special delivery...and it's a BIG ONE!

Wanna see something fantastic? That big machine there is called a linear accelerator...and no, it's not the mile-long kind at Stanford. Rather, that's the VERY high-tech cancer treatment device, made by Varian, and purchased by a team of dedicated donors to the VMC Foundation.

It weighs five tons.

This is where we trust in cranes...and the folks who operate them.

Our "linac" was delivered last weekend, and as this photo shows, lowered down into the new Sobrato Cancer Center. Very carefully. Besides being five tons, it's nuclear medicine. Yep, we're moving slowly with this one!

Just a reminder: Without the County of Santa Clara, the Sobrato Family Foundation, The Levy Family, Cypress Semiconductor, and a host of generous contributors, this delivery would not have been possible. Soon, this amazing medical equipment will begin saving lives - and that's what the VMC Foundation is about. We're so proud!

...and if you think the linac is heavy, you should see the concrete bunker it's housed in. Would you like to? Give us a call at 408-885-5299 and we'll arrange a tour!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some very important updates - read on!

Friends, it's now official: Santa Clara County voters will get a chance to save Valley Medical Center in November. "Measure A" was enthusiastically brought to life two days ago by our county board of supervisors, who hope that voters will pass this bond measure.

If they do, it will raise $840,000,000 to replace VMC's seismically unsafe buildings, which would bring us in line with California law. This will save our trama center, our burn center, and over HALF of our 574 beds.

If they don't, we're all in a bit of a pickle.

More on this later, but the other big news that came that day is that County Executive Pete Kutras has announced his retirement, effective Halloween this year. For those of you who know Pete, you know how passionate he is about Valley Medical Center and how supportive he's been over the years.

If you share that passion and would like to try your hand at running a county, send your resume. Just kidding. Here's more on Pete - and the new "Measure A" - from the SJ Mercury News:

County Executive Kutras stepping down
By Deborah Lohse
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/24/2008 07:12:02 PM PDT

County Executive Pete Kutras, a fixture of Santa Clara County government for more than three decades, announced Tuesday he was retiring on Halloween.

Supervisors and county officials were quick to praise Kutras, 59, known for his droopy mustache, love of the county and unapologetic, unpolitical and sometimes unbending style.

The news surfaced during a busy board meeting Tuesday as supervisors voted on three key issues: They put an $840 million bond measure on the November ballot to upgrade Valley Medical Center; approved spending $1 million to enhance the county fairgrounds despite its uncertain future; and moved forward with a controversial plan to add 24 beds to the juvenile rehabilitation facility William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill.

The board unanimously backed the bond measure, touting it as a way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars toward the $1.4 billion cost of fortifying the Valley Medical Center against earthquakes as required by state law. About 6 percent of the bond money would be used to build urgent care centers in downtown San Jose.

Voters will be asked in November to approve the bonds, which would be repaid through increased property taxes. If passed, homeowners with median-priced homes of $650,000 would see their property taxes go up about $90 a year, proponents said. But without the bond and extra tax revenue, they argued, the county would have to close more than half its urgent-care beds and the trauma centers.

The proposal will require approval from two-thirds of voters in November to pass.

The increase in beds for the James Ranch passed on a 3-to-2 vote, and will bring capacity to 84 youths at a time. Proponents say the new beds are needed because the county's Juvenile Hall is bulging with kids. Many of those youths are waiting for space to open at the ranch, which supporters say emphasizes "pro-social values" rather than punitive treatment.

But dissenters Blanca Alvarado and Pete McHugh had hoped to persuade the board to consider focusing on other alternatives, such as prevention or intervention programs that keep kids out of jail.

Amid the weighty decisions, the news of the departure of Kutras - county executive for the last five years - was considered a blow.

"It will be a long time before we can find anyone who can match his love of the county, and his skills," said an emotional Alvarado.

County union leader Brian O'Neill said Kutras has been open and straightforward with members. "We really treasure that," said O'Neill.

Supervisor Ken Yeager said he grew to appreciate Kutras' straightforward style. "Pete was able to get away with it because it's a big organization and he loved what the county's mission was all about. You didn't questions his motives."

Kutras said he doesn't plan to look for a job in his retirement, but may volunteer or get involved with the community in 2009.

Before that, he said, "I'm going to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm going to clean my garage."

Contact Deborah Lohse at or (408) 295-3983.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You just gotta see this cool technology...

So yesterday I had a great "field trip" up to Menlo Park to visit Alter G. This cool new company has invented a "gravity reducing" machine!

VMC Foundation champion and donor Bill Peacock advises the Alter G team and suggested I check them out for their medical applications. I'm no doctor (REALLY no doctor), but the healing value of this doo-hickey is obvious. Alter G's treadmill/air pressure system is being used in hospitals around the country, including the Palo Alto VA and Los Gatos Community. It's great for runners recovering from injury, patients with spinal cord injuries, people with diabetes, and many other categories of folks with limited mobility.

I climbed in and began to walk, and they reduced my "weight" to what it would feel like walking on the moon. Giant steps are what I took. SUPER cool!

Trouble is, as usual, great technology is not cheap. And, with VMC's budget crisis looming, our staff is swamped. One day I hope we can bring the Alter G anti-gravity gizmo to VMC...and if you are interested in helping, give me a shout.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Let's end the week on a POSITIVE note!

I have two bits of great news for you: First, we were visited by our friend and community champion Dick Levy yesterday. Dr. Levy is the Chairman of Varian Medical Systems, and he and his wife Susan have become two of Silicon Valley's true heroes in philanthropy.

Continuing his support for VMC, the Levys gave $250,000 yesterday to our effort to bring Digital Mammography to our hospital and clinics. This will be a HUGE benefit to our patients, decrease waiting times, increase speed of diagnosis, and further VMC's mission to provide the finest care with the best technology. THANK YOU, Susan and Dick...learn more about them and some of our other strong supporters here.

Next, Valley Medical Center has been named one of the top places for nurses to the nurses themselves! The following article in the San Francisco Business Times hints at why the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are working with us to achieve Magnet Status, the highest level of nursing designation in the country.

How many public hospitals have ever applied for Magnet designation? Just one. VMC!

Read on, forgiving the error (they call us Santa Clara County Medical Center) and click here for the full article:

Bay Area RNs and nursing students are watching the local market vigilantly, and are apt to aim for jobs at sought-after spots like Kaiser Permanente hospitals, UCSF Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services (part of Sutter Health) and Santa Clara County Medical Center, according to a survey done this spring.

Surveys of 220 Bay Area nursing students and 225 experienced RNs by San Francisco's Health Workforce Solutions LLC identified those organizations as favored job sites, with Kaiser, UCSF and Santa Clara County med center landing at the top of experienced nurses' lists. Surveyed students came from the College of San Mateo, Los Medanos College, Samuel Merritt, Santa Rosa Junior College and UCSF.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Valley Foundation's BIG gift!

People often call The Valley Medical Center Foundation "The Valley Foundation" for short...and I am right there, every time, to correct them. "No no," I say, "It's VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER Foundation."

This is obnoxious, but important.

Important because there is actually "The Valley Foundation" in Los Gatos, and today they told us they are contributing $100,000 to our Sobrato Cancer Center campaign!

We're absolutely thrilled by this, and I want to thank their board: Phil Boyce, Joe Parisi, Richard Sieve M.D., Ed LaVeque M.D., Herbert Kain M.D., Arthur Basham M.D., Dan Doore and Ralph Ross.

Big thanks to the Valley Foundation for helping us provide the finest care to our oncology patients...the photo above depicts our new linear accelerator, one of the divices we purchased earlier this year. A "linac" delivers radiation to kill cancer cells - a life-saving technology. It's going to be delivered by crane next week, which should be so cool we ought to sell tickets.

There's still more we need, of course, so if you would like to get involved with the Sobrato Cancer Center campaign please call us day or night at 408-885-5299.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One big step closer to saving VMC...

Folks, June 11 was a day to make you proud to live in Santa Clara County…or make you wish you did. All five county supervisors voted to place an initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, would raise the money to re-build Valley Medical Center!

The alert reader will remember that VMC has seismically-unsafe portions that account for half its beds – a big problem even if state law didn’t mandate that we replace them…which it does. Did you miss the Editorial in last Sunday’s Mercury News? Read it here, now…

All done? Great. So today, the county supervisors made it clear: This is crucial, we MUST save VMC, and the voters should, in November, support this measure which will raise $840,000,000 in bonds to rebuild the oldest parts of our fantastic public hospital. Like the editorial said, this is a dire situation.

Our county elected officials and county executive are leading on this, and there is one more public hearing on the matter coming up on June 24. If you’re interested in coming, and want more detail, I’d be happy to talk your ear off on the matter: email me at and I can give you the facts – and hopefully, get you as excited about this milestone as I am. How would you like to live in the community recognized nationally as America’s BEST public hospital?

That choice is coming, and today we’re one step closer. The alternative? WAY too scary to contemplate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

VMC Idol rocks Silicon Valley!

Friday night was the third year of VMC Idol, the SCVHHS's own singing competition...and another great one indeed! Not only does that staff at your public hospital system save lives and protect our health, they can SING!

Congratulations to our winner Ricia Baumgardner for her great version of "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. Coming in second was Maria Isla and her sassy rendition of La Quinta Estacion's "El Sol No Regresa". Our bronze medalists were Melissa Noto and Rick Lee doing "Way Back into Love"...which you can see here!

There are so many people to thank for making this fun-fund raiser possible: Our amazing staff at the VMC Foundation and the staff of VMC's rehab center, our volunteers, the Heritage Theater in Campbell, the singers who tried out and who competed, and of course our judges Dr. Akshat Shah, Carole Adler and County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Dr. Steve Harris, VMC's chair of pediatrics served as emcee, Bob Shea did a great job behind the board, and Luis and Connie captured it all on video and film. Personally, my beer glass it tipped to the Idol Hands Band in which I'm rediculously proud to play bass...great job guys!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering Robert Kennedy

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

- Robert Kennedy, Cape Town, 6/6/66

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Battle of the Hospital Bands is ON!!!

Sometimes hospitals can compete even when they cooperate.

Last night, we held a great event to highlight VMC’s excellent women and children’s services, including our NICU, OBGYN and other programs. We do this in coordination and cooperation with other great medical centers in Silicon Valley, one of which being O’Connor Hospital – our nearest neighbor dating back to the 1800’s (just like VMC.)

I was chatting with O’Connor’s CEO Robert Curry at our mixer over a glass of wine, when the topic of music came up. “We have a ‘house band’ at O’Connor, you know”, he told me.

“So do we”, was my reply, just three days before VMC Idol. 30 seconds of mutual chest-thumping later, and the VMC/O’Connor “Battle of the Bands” was born!

So VMC’s Idol Hands (I play bass) will take on O’Connor’s band (Mr. Curry plays keyboards) in a rock spectacle of epic proportions…we’re just not sure when yet. When it happens, you can count on an event to remember. Someone call Rolling Stone Magazine.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Mercury News calls for the question

You may have noticed a large number of stories in the Newspaper of Silicon Valley lately about Valley Medical Center, and the lives saved there every day.

These stories are extremely compelling in their own right. Yet, the media savvy readers among us, on noting the increasing frequency of VMC-related articles (and photos...see the "lifestyle" section today for some great shots of the Rotaract Club and the heroic work they did for VMC's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), may be asking themselves "Okay, so where are they going with all this?"

For starters, here.

From today's Editorial page, said better than I ever could:

EDITORIAL - Funding seismic upgrade for VMC urgently needed

(By the way, that part where it says "a capital campaign is already underway"? Boy, are we going to need YOUR help! I'll write more after Tuesday's proceedings...check back here soon!)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Does this concern you? YES. Is it serious? YES.

I know not everyone reads the San Jose Mercury News every day...but I do, and in case you missed today's lead editorial, it's crucial.

It concerns us all.

Please take a moment to learn about one of serveral threats to Valley Medical Center, and if you have friends in other states whose congressional rep's may not yet "get it", why not send them a link to this page? on:

Editorial: Public hospitals need protection from federal cuts
Mercury News Editorial
Article Launched: 05/30/2008 01:33:46 AM PDT

President Bush has spent the past seven years worsening the nation's health care crisis. The number of uninsured children has grown from 7.9 million to 8.7 million in the past four years, now nearly equal to the population of North Carolina.

But that may not be his worst health care legacy. That would be the harm he's caused to public hospitals, including Santa Clara County's Valley Medical Center and the Alameda County Medical Center. Aiming to privatize health care, Bush has been draining resources from the only recourse left to uninsured residents who are sick or injured.

He's taking one last whack at public hospital budgets this spring by trying to further limit federal payments for Medicare and Medicaid. Congress must not let this stand. It should extend a moratorium on new cost limits for a year.

California's public hospitals would lose $500 million under this proposal. That would mean a $40 million hit for Valley Medical Center on top of funding cuts by the county, which is facing a $174 million deficit.

The threat to Alameda County Medical Center is even greater, since a quirk of the administration's proposal would punish public hospitals that are not directly run by the county. The Oakland hospital could lose $100 million, about 20 percent of its budget.

Alameda County filed suit over the anticipated cuts, which would be unfair and excessive. The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., last week agreed. That at least could delay implementation.

Public hospitals represent only 6 percent of the hospitals in the state. But they provide 60 percent of the trauma care and 45 percent of the burn-unit care. If you're critically injured, chances are the ambulance will whisk you to a public hospital. If these services wither, the wealthy will suffer along with the poor.

Federal officials say they're trying to rein in costs, but they're not. They're simply passing them along to counties, which in many cases are barred from turning away emergency and trauma patients. The federal government instead should find ways to reduce the number of uninsured and support preventive programs to keep people from developing chronic diseases that cost so much to treat.

Another provision of the proposed rules is especially troubling. After 40 years of sharing costs, federal officials want to stop paying to help train future doctors. Valley Medical now trains one out of four doctors in the county. Pulling federal support will lead to greater shortages of doctors, already a national challenge as baby boomers age.

California's congressional delegation opposes the Bush payment limits. Members will need all the support they can muster from valley leaders - including business - when Congress reconvenes Tuesday and attempts to block these draconian rules.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Firefighters ROCK!

(that's the view out our back better believe we love fire fighters!)

As of this morning, the Summit Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is now 100% contained!

Thursday that was hardly the case, as fierce winds pushed the blaze down into a populated area...and frighteningly near my home. My wife Kate was out of town, so I had to figure out what of our valued possessions might fit in the car, with the dogs and cats taking up the bulk of the room.

Fortunately, we didn't lose our home and didn't need to evacuate. sadly, not everyone living near me was as lucky. Our community lost at least 30 homes, and several fire fighters were injured. It's a little exasperating when the media fails to mention WHERE a fire fighter with a burn injury will be treated; Yes, you guessed it: Valley Medical Center is one of two burn trauma centers in California north of Los Angeles...and folks should know that.

Santa Cruz County, where I live, has NO trauma centers at all - and neither does Monterey County. As the air begins to clear and those who lost homes begin to plan their futures, we need to thank VMC for being there for a huge number of us in northern California. And for me, I'll keep thanking our fire fighters - heroes all - when I see them. Cal Fire and our local volunteers saved my home this week. My gratitude is beyond measure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"I'm a lucky guy."

When you hear someone who has suffered a life-changing injury refer to themselves as “lucky”, you cannot help be re-inspired by the human spirit. Such is the case of David McNabb, whose story will absolutely move you…please read on, and a huge thanks to my friend Brenna at PRx for coordinating this visit! | Survivor
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

By Marilyn Dubil (

Hugs, squeals of joy and lots of laughter filled the Santa Clara
Valley Medical Center burn unit
as former patient Dave McNabb,
who holds the record for length of stay in the burn center, made a
visit with his parents last week.

After more than 17 months in the hospital's Regional Burn Center,
McNabb and his parents developed relationships with the center's

"It feels like a family reunion," laughed nursing supervisor Jill

McNabb's story begins in 2002, when he was working for Fluor
Corporation, a large construction and maintenance company that
did maintenance work for IBM Corporation.

The 40-year-old Hollister resident who grew up in Morgan Hill,
was working on electrical maintenance. He was told, he said, to
take a part from an electrical box on Jan. 5, 2002. What he didn't
realize was that there was power flowing through a line in the
box, 12,400 volts of electricity from a high voltage transformer,
which led to a 35 million watt electrical explosion in his body.
The electricity grabbed on to him, and he kicked and tried to break free,
but it just pulled him "like a magnet."

"I shorted that machine out, so it blew up and when it blew up it set me on
fire and threw me back 10 feet into a wall," he said. "I was still
conscious, but I was on fire. I'm on fire trying to put it out."

With no one but a co-worker around at the substation, the co-worker had to
put the fire out by slapping him with his hands. McNabb instructed him to
get on the radio and call his boss.

He was taken to Valley Medical Center by ambulance.

From the shock he was in he couldn't feel the pain.

By the time he arrived at the hospital, the pain was horrible, he said. He
was in a medically-induced coma for the first four months.

"You're just a mummy. You're wrapped completely with a couple of tubes
coming out," he said.

His parents were told he had a two percent chance to live.

"I just wanted to see my son," Judy McNabb said. "When they finally let me
see him, all I could see were his eyes.

The recovery process was slow and tortuous, with 50 operations, skin grafts
and dealing with a variety of emotions.

For Dave's family, emotions were already raw after Judy's sister was killed
in a car accident in October 2001 and her nephew was dying from
complications from diabetes.

"My mother is such a strong person," he said. "I could never have gotten
through that without her."

Dave said when he was ready to give up, his mother pushed him to keep going.
"He's my child, as a mom I had to do everything I could," she said. "Dave
and I always had a close bond."

Once he left the hospital, Dave stayed with his parents for a year, with his
mom acting as his nurse.

She spent hours each day just changing bandages.

"It's hard to come to terms that you're going to be that way for the rest of
your life," he said. "I'm really an act of God ... One day I go from being
(active) to getting hurt."

He was 34 years old at the time of the accident and he felt like he was just
starting to get his life together and know what he was going to do, making
good money. Then his whole life turned around.

McNabb grew up in San Martin, graduated from Live Oak High School. He
enrolled in the military when he was 18. In 1998 he began working for Fluor.
After the accident, Dave said, his friends drifted away because it was
painful for them to see him suffer.

"How do you look at someone who's burned 70 percent? It was hard for them,"
he said.

Judy said despite all he has been through, her son is not bitter. She
describes him as generous and caring.

Dave donated his motorized wheelchair to a young girl in Hollister when he
saw her in a store, Judy said, her mother pushing her in a non-motorized

"He's a beautiful man," she said.

Richard Alexander, McNabb's attorney who helped him navigate all the medical
and job issues, considers him a friend.

"He's an extremely courageous man," he said. "He came within inches of being
thrown on the human scrap heap, very close, but he fought his way back."

Gale McNabb, Dave's father, said Alexander fought hard for Dave, not letting
up until he got what Dave needed to pay his skyrocketing medical bills.

"It's hard to know what kind of lawyer to hire when you're in dire straits,"
Gale said. "Dick Alexander has been amazing. He dedicated himself to getting
what was right for Dave."

Dave agrees that Alexander played a major role in his recovery.
"I have the best lawyer that you can imagine ... He still calls me to see
how I'm doing. He's become a friend. He's a real great guy. I've never met
anyone like him."

McNabb says he wakes up every day thanking God for another day. He's more
appreciative of being able to perform small tasks for himself, as well as
enjoy his hobbies, riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, hunting, fishing.
He feels blessed.

"I'm a lucky guy."

Monday, May 19, 2008

An unwelcome bridge to 1988

Twenty years ago, I was a junior at San Jose State University. I bet I’m not alone in remembering the multitudes of homeless mentally ill people that roamed the campus everyday, after massive budget cuts left them nowhere to go in downtown San Jose.

Fast-forward twenty years, and reading today’s Mercury News article, and I fear we’re heading the same direction – a disgrace and a tragedy. Folks, the money is just NOT THERE to provide for the severely mentally ill, most of whom also have substance abuse issues. As the article describes, if we cut services for treatment today, we’ll pay much more tomorrow when they wind up in our jails.

If you’re as upset about this as I am, you can at least be assured that our elected officials on the Board of Supervisors are as well…their task to balance the budget is a horrific one. If you’re in a position to donate to the VMC Foundation for VMC’s mental health or alcohol/drug treatment services, we’ll ensure your gift is put to good use…and soon.

Call me at 408-885-5299 if you want to help...or just to vent your frustrations!