Delicious and deadly…shaking our hypertension

On this Cesar Chavez Day, I thought we’d discuss food: The kind grown in the ground and picked by good people who work much harder than I do.

If I ate more of that kind of food – fresh fruit and veggies – maybe my doctor, Chris Snow, wouldn’t have resigned from VMC last year after taking my blood pressure. There’s no known connection, but still.

I actually do okay with the green leafies, being vegan and all, but the real problem is SALT. I promised Dr. Snow last year that I’d stop dumping the salt shaker over on top of everything I ate, but he explained that wasn’t the main problem…yes friends, the issue is processed foods: Pre-cooked, additive-rich, and pre-packaged. Welcome to the American Diet.

Food from a carton or can or box likely contains tons of salt. All that stuff in the middle isles of the grocery store, and most of the stuff Americans seem to love…it’s all processed. “Oh, but this can of tomato juice is so GOOD for me,” I hear you saying. Check the nutrition facts, and wonder no more why after drinking that can your heart feels like it’s trying to escape from your chest Alien-style.

I’m being cute about it I know, but this is serious: Hypertension kills millions of us every year. Slows some of us down too; my pal Bruce had a heart attack last week. And VMC Foundation major supporter and prominent attorney Richard Alexander just became an evangelist against salt.

You see, Dick Alexander is a big dude like me, and realized he could do more for his health after a no-salt, no sugar retreat he attended. He writes eloquently about why we ALL need to cut back on salt, and you should read it by clicking here.

And then look for me and Dick in the Valley Medical Center cafeteria. We’ll be the guys stealing all the salt shakers…because we “heart” you thiiiiiis much.

Educating nurses…from around the world?

Today was super cool – it began with a visit to Valley Medical Center by a group of 12 nursing students from Japan! That’s them, in the photo, along with VMC Foundation staff member Debbie Burdsall, touring through our Spinal Cord Rehabilitation outdoor plaza.

Okay, I’m not the finest photographer on earth. Maybe they all turned their heads at once or something. That’s probably it.

Anyway, they said they learned a lot (through their translator), and if only knowing six words of Japanese didn’t make me feel inferior enough, I was given a reality jolt when Debbie and I explained our wireless network.

In 2004, the VMC Foundation with help from Ophoenix launched Valley Medical Center’s first wireless network for patients and their families. Debbie’s job is Technology Champion, helping patients with a wide range of disabilities access the Internet, email, and information. All made possible by our wireless network, of course.

We explained all this to the Japanese nursing students. They were confused. They didn’t seem to understand. Then it occured to me: Most of them were from Tokyo. Their whole CITY has been wireless since most of these students were putting puffy stickers on their Hello Kitty lunch boxes. They literally had NO IDEA why what were describing was worth describing.

So another reminder that America is now and then behind the times. Still, our wireless network has been helping patients in major ways for years now, and some hospitals in Silicon Valley don’t yet have this technology available in patient rooms, public areas, and everywhere we can offer it. Even if they did, they don’t have Debbie…funny how the best technology still depends on a skilled and helpful human being for the best experience.

Our wireless program really is cool, in fact. Want to learn more about how we do it, about Debbie, and how you can help us improve it? Click here, and thanks!

The New VSC…making room, and fast.

Hey Friends, just a quick look at today’s news on Valley Medical Center’s main campus: The construction zone is in effect!

I took this shot this morning, as the fencing goes up around VMC’s old one-story, outdated outpatient building (that’s the dark, windowless portion just behind the truck). This facility was emptied earlier this month as all the departments moved to the new Valley Specialty Center. Next step? Bulldozers!

Once this building is gone (soon), we begin building the “NEW” VMC. Want to learn more? email me at or watch this space.

Ear plugs and earmarks…a big week for VMC.

A couple quick cool items for you today: Last week was the grand opening of Valley Specialty Center, VMC’s new fantastic outpatient clinic…and the Idol Hands Band was there to rock the party, louder than we’ve ever been, with a huge sound system (not pictured is our amazing singer, Veronica Giles, R.N.). Big thanks to the hundreds that came out for the celebration, including elected officials and even former SCVHHS CEO Bob Sillen!

Now – on to national affairs: Say what you like about federal earmarks, but I’m with George Stephanopoulos who said today “You have to decide – is it a bad earmark, or a good earmark?”

If you’re seeking an example of a good earmark, I offer two, as championed by Congressman Mike Honda and signed into law by President Obama yesterday: Valley Medical Center has been granted $404,000 for digital mammography equipment, and $233,000 for emergency room ultrasound technology.

Both will save lives, at a time when VMC is facing yet another hard year of budget cuts. Neither represents even a fraction of the federal budget. And sadly, though badly needed, these vital technology purchases are only two of the long list of items we need at YOUR public hospital…and cannot afford right now.

That’s why the VMC Foundation is working so hard to raise funds for more equipment and programs. We cannot stop just because the economy is down; in fact, since demand for VMC is up, we need to work doubly hard!

SO, yes, we’re thrilled about Valley Specialty Center, which will help more patients receive care more efficiently. But we need more technology, equipment, and support to keep it all going.

Would you like to see some great photos of Valley Specialty Center? Click here. Would you like to make your mark on this vital Silicon Valley resource? Click here. Thanks so much!

The First Five Years begin with the First Five Days…

…and sometimes, the first five hours. Or minutes.

Today we celebrated a major partnership at the VMC Foundation, and I just had to share it with you. First 5 Santa Clara County has made a multi-year, multimillion dollar commitment to us for support of our tiniest, most fragile patients: The babies in VMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The benefit of this life-saving equipment and program investment can seriously not be measured fully in dollars or statistics. Let’s instead measure it in families:

The photos above are Greg, Fan and Dana…Dana is about to start Kindergarten, but spent a very tough time in our NICU when she was born tiny and prematurely. When Dana came into the world, she was the size and weight of a stick of butter. Think of that. They thought she might not survive, but today…well, you can see her: A happy, healthy girl ready for school!

It’s the major leaps in technology (and the amazing staff of our NICU) that lead to such great outcomes for Dana and so many others, and First 5’s investment will help ensure we meet our growing tech needs. “What happens to these babies in the first few minutes of life,” explained Nurse Manager Kim Corvin at today’s press conference, “will impact the rest of their lives…and that impacts our whole society.”

Kim is right – and First 5 cannot be thanked enough for this investment in our future. Visit them to learn about the other great things they do around Silicon Valley: