Another amazing story from a VMC family…

After receiving permission from the family, I am excited to share this story with you. As difficult as it is to imagine feeling “locked in” your own body, imagine being given a chance to start communicating again. That’s what VMC’s team did for Laure, and part of what the VMC Foundation proudly supports.

When I asked Mr. Chow if I could share this with you, in fact, he responded right away, saying:

You can certainly share. We credit the staff at SCVMC, especially Dr Duong and your PT/OT/ST staff for challenging while respecting Laure. Laure always faces her challenges head on.

You should also know the nursing staff has always been fantastic. Laure was very particular about her care and Laure felt both safe and genuinely cared for by your nursing staff.

Laure has a long way to go, but your staff has been a source of compassion, support and encouragement towards her recovery.

This, then, from Mr. Chow:

To Laure’s extended family:

It has been a long and difficult year for Laure and her family. She is still paralyzed and mute, and everyday life has been extremely challenging. Today however, I share some good news.

Since Laure has been working diligently with physical/occupational therapy every day, she has managed to gain enough head control to hold her head steady. This allows her to use a machine called Dynavox.

The machine tracks her eyes along a keyboard and when Laure blinks, it accepts this as if she were pressing a key. Once she completes a sentence, she uses her eyes to “click” on the “speak” button and the machine speaks what Laure has just typed with her eyes.

At first Laure spelled, “I am tired”, then “thank you Larry”, and “Annie (her caregiver) you are special”. Then Laure was on a roll, spelling:

I want Internet.

I want email.

I want email.

I want email.

She was then able to spell / speak, “I love Ton Ton” and “I love Caillou”.

Finally, she spelled, “ I am happy” and “I have a voice”. We all cried.

All this took well over an hour; the device is not 100% accurate, and Laure gets exhausted just trying to hold her head steady, but we will keep practicing and hopefully send a few emails soon.

I know you share in our joy, and thank you for your thoughts, prayers, love and support of Laure.

Larry Chow

Good Samaritan gives 85 year old VMC patient birthday to remember

Greg GeierGreg Geier could hardly believe his eyes. Walking back to his office from the construction site, he spotted on older man lying face down on the sidewalk in front of Valley Medical Center.

The man was alone, and on this quiet morning, nobody else was in the immediate vicinity. Greg and his colleagues quickly rush to his side. The man had just left the hospital after a visit with his doctor, and apparently tripped.

“He was disoriented,” Greg said, “and banged up pretty bad.”

Greg quickly found a VMC staff person, who alerted the Emergency Department and arranged for his immediate transport. In just a few minutes, the man was gone.

Greg caught his breath, a carried on with his busy day. As the Piping General Foreman for F.W. Spencer and Sons, Inc., a major HVAC and sheet metal sub-contractor for the new VMC hospital wing, he had plenty of work to keep his mind occupied.

But something didn’t sit right with Greg.

He asked himself why this 80+ year old man in poor health was by himself at VMC? Did he have no family to accompany him to his appointment? And what would become of him now all alone in the Emergency Department? He didn’t even know this man’s name, but he couldn’t get the image of him laying facedown on the cold, damp concrete out of his mind.

“I just kept thinking about the guy and it really bothered me,” said Greg.

He also couldn’t help think of his own father, also in his 80s, who was recently injured after a nasty fall on a busy street. It was total strangers who helped get him to safety. Whatever it was, Greg decided that he needed to make sure this man would be ok.

So Greg returned to the hospital and spoke to VMC staff in the ED. He learned that the man had been hospitalized in the Medical Short Stay Unit (MSSU), where he would remain for the next few days, recovering from his injuries.

Greg found his way to the unit and explained who he was to the nurses. They were somewhat skeptical at first. Greg, after all, was not a family member or friend. And a construction worker looks nothing like a candy striper. But seeing no harm, they led Greg to the proper room.

Greg introduced himself.

The man was named Richard. A World War Two veteran, he used to ferry supplies via truck for the Army between the Bay Area and ports in Southern California. Now in his mid-80s, Richard was living alone in San Jose, his family long since gone. He explained that he had been visiting the doctor that day, when he tripped leaving the hospital. He was grateful for Greg and his colleagues for their help, and touched that Greg would even bother to visit him again in the hospital.

As the two men continued to speak, Greg learned that the very next day would be Richard’s 85th birthday. After a few more minutes of conversation, Greg said goodbye and left for the evening, thinking he had brought closure to the events of that morning.

And yet, once again, Greg just didn’t feel right. On the ride home, his thoughts drifted back to Richard, alone in the hospital – and on his 85th birthday, without family or friends.

So when Greg awoke the next morning, he decided to see Richard again. But this time, he would bring along a birthday card filled with the money he had in his wallet.

“I thought that maybe he could take himself out to dinner with it,” Greg said.

He grabbed a company sweatshirt for Richard and trekked over to his room in the MSSU.

This time, it was Richard who couldn’t believe his eyes.

“He was just beaming,” said Greg. “He was very thankful.”

The events caused a small stir on the unit, as nurses and other MSSU staff crowded into the room to see the scene unfold. By this time, the story of the friendly construction worker who had come to Richard’s rescue had brought smiles all around.

“It just felt really neat,” said Michelle de la Calle, R.N., the MSSU Nurse Manager. “Here is a person who is physically building our new hospital, but cares so much about our patients too.”

“It was just one of those things,” Greg said. “It felt like a calling. I just had to do it.”

A new troubling study on our health…

What do you suppose makes the biggest difference to your health? Genes? Kicking the cigarette habit?

These things are important, sure, but according to a groundbreaking new study done by our own Public Health Department, racism you experience and where you live are MORE important.

Troubling? You bet it is. I’ve been fighting racism and injustice where I see it for a long time, and if this study (done in partnership with The Health Trust) doesn’t get make you as mad as it does me, then I’m sorry for you.

The way people treat you based on the color of your skin, and the amount of money you make, and the neighborhood you live in have a dramatic effect on your health. This is unfair, and as a society we need to figure out what to do about it…at least that’s how I feel.

Check out the study here, and let me know your reaction to it.

TechCrunch profiles eLEGS at VMC

Great news out of Omaha, Nebraska today – the VMC Rehabilitation Center and Burn Center received 5-Star quality awards from PRC (Professional Research Consultants). PRC is an industry leader in healthcare quality data management, working with over 200 of America’s top hospitals.

The awards recognized inpatient services in the Rehab and Burn centers for Overall Quality of Care. These awards are based on the percentage of patients who rate the inpatient unit Excellent for the overall quality of care question. VMC needed to finish in the 90th percentile of hospitals surveyed nationally to win these awards.

We salute the amazing staff of the VMC Rehab and Burn Units. It’s one thing to be a hospital open to all regardless of ability to pay – but quite another to offer world-class care for those inside. At VMC, we do both.

VMC Foundation and Silicon Valley lose a dear friend

Leonard ElyI met Leonard Ely in 2007, and by 2008 he had become such a strong supporter of our “Measure A” campaign to rebuild Valley Medical Center that I’m not sure we’d have won without him.

“VMC saved my life”, he often said of his time with us, which was told and retold by news sources around Silicon Valley.

Now Leonard Ely has passed away at 87, and will be greatly missed and remembered. A generous man, he was also a shrewd business leader – and woe unto anyone who misjudged that!

Mr. Ely, thank you for all you have done for our community…your gifts will keep giving for generations to come. The full obituary can be read here.

Give a Booster Shot 2011

Since 2009, over 500 employees of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System have donated to the VMC Foundation via the “Give a Booster Shot” campaign, pledging nearly $650,000 to date. And the VMC Foundation has put those dollars to good use, helping keep the doors of Valley Medical Center open to all. Join us.