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!

The budget crisis hits VMC hard, and we are truly at risk

This week was a rough one, friends…the county budget crisis is very real, and very bad: The Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System stands to lose nearly forty million dollars – just to start. Since 2002, cuts exceed $250,000,000. The Mercury News has been reporting on this daily, and the bad news doesn’t stop there: The Governor’s proposed budget (among other bad things) will drop a million Californians from Medi-Cal, according to Assemblyman Jim Beall with whom I had lunch today. He’s pretty upset, as am I, as should we all be.

We should also remember what’s at risk: It’s not just the “safety net”, but also amazing programs that contribute to the quality of life in Silicon Valley for everyone, rich or poor. Please read the following excerpt from an email that SCVHHS CEO Kim Roberts sent to all employees of SCVHHS just a few minutes ago:

While these fiscal issues may seem overwhelming, we continue – every day – to provide remarkable services and value to our community. HHS is currently nowhere near being able to do all that we want to do for our patients, clients, and community. There is the real possibility that we will be forced to do less in the future. Through it all, we make an important, personal and positive difference to nearly 250,000 people each year.

I had an opportunity to highlight some of our good work during the Budget Workshop. One point I made was about the positive external validation we get with all the awards we receive. The short list includes:
• The Traumatic Brain Injury program at SCVMC is one of 14 such programs in the United States to get a Model System of Care grant from the National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research.
• Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center has received numerous awards, including the National and California Associations of Public Hospitals and the YMCA Activate America Award.
• Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer, was the 2008 Early Intervention Program Special Honoree at the 20th Anniversary conference of the State Office of AIDS.
• Children’s Shelter & Custody Health Services received full accreditation from the Institute for Medical Quality.
• By fully integrating the community in their MHSA planning process and involving more that 10,000 people (speaking 5 different languages), the Mental Health Department was recognized by the California Mental Health Directors Association for having one of the broadest and most inclusive MHSA planning processes.
• The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SCVMC is the only on in Northern California to get the March of Dimes NICU Family Support Center designation.
• SCVMC was selected to participate in the State’s Coverage Initiative and, through the efforts of CHS, has one of the highest enrollments of any participant.
• The Children’s Health Initiative was recognized at the Santa Clara County Children’s Summit.
• Next week, the American Red Cross will honor the SCVMC Trauma Team as a local “Hero”.

Continue to do what you do best – provide high quality, compassionate, innovative healthcare to all who we serve – and together, we will get through these challenging times.

A great night…but do I have to drive?

A HUGE thanks to the Silicon Valley Business Travel Association for throwing a super party Friday night: Vino & Vistas, held at the Silver Creek Valley Country Club was a thing to behold! First, the wine was fabulous. Second, the auction items were amazing. Third, and more amazing: David Garibaldi!
That’s him painting John Lennon – while the crowd cheered and The Beatles music played…six minutes later, and he’s done. Astounding.

After auctioning David’s paintings (thanks to all who bid), the Grand Finale of the evening: Pulling the winning raffle ticket for the Model A Shay. Trouble was, the winner was NOT in the room, which of course meant someone had to drive the 1929-replica car back to its covered garage.

You guessed it. Me!

Fun? Sure, but challenging: No insturment panel lights in an antique car, and with the windsreen coming up to my neck, hearing the engine was tough. I shifted gears using guesswork and vibration…all the time glad that Valley Medical Center was nearby, with it’s top trauma team at the ready.

I’m kidding – sort of. Seriously, THANKS to all the volunteers, our staff, and all who made VINO & VISTAS 2008 a huge success!

Hooray for FISH!

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday was our big “Festival of Books” – part of the VMC Foundation’s Reach Out and Read Program. Did you know our pediatricians give away free books to every young child during their checkups at all SCVMC’s clinics? We’re talking thousands of books every month, helping send the message that literacy is PART of good health! First 5 Santa Clara County is our big champion on this program, and we sure appreciate them.

Anyway, yesterday in front of VMC, we held a great festival with scores of kids making books, eating healthy snacks, listening to stories read by our top MD’s and VMC Foundation Board Chair Leah, and ME…yes, I got to read my new favorite book “Hooray for Fish!”

Stripy fish, ele-fish, happyfish…one young mom brought her identical quadruplet boys to hear the story (she’s some kind of superhero). Three of the boys were busy running around VMC’s lawn, but one was transfixed by my crazy reading skills. Then, at the end of the book, I was paid the highest compliment you can get from a 3-year-old:


What a great day – thanks to Loralie, Al, Steve, Leah, and all the great volunteers who made it such a success. We’ll do this event “again!”

The season’s best party, at a time when help is most needed

At the VMC Foundation, we work to ensure you know why your donation makes such a difference: The Santa Clara Valley Heatlh & Hospital System, your community’s safety net, is struggling to serve literally thousands of people every day that seek medical care across Silicon Valley…at a time when resources are scarce.

But we also work to make it FUN to support us – so, please join us for Vino & Vistas!

This amazing party happens May 9 at the stunning Silver Creek Valley Country Club in San Jose. We’ll be pouring the finest wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains, serve you a sumptuous dinner, and provide entertainment that will leave you breathless.

The cost is just $125 – a bargain for what the Mercury News called one of the best events of 2007. For your tickets, and more information, click here:

Don’t miss this spectacular event – and feel free to call us with any questions: 408-885-5299. Thanks!