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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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!)

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? Thanks…read 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.

Firefighters ROCK!

(that’s the view out our back deck…you 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.

“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.”

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!