Bryan Stow visits VMC to thank rehab staff

The last time many of us saw Bryan Stow, he wasn’t able to walk or talk.

And while he still has a long way to go, this video from NBC Bay Area has a lot of us pretty emotional.

If you’ve followed Bryan’s story since that terrible day when he was attacked at Dodger Stadium on March 31, 2011, this story will surely move you too. The entire care team at VMC’s Rehabilitation Center was so grateful for his visit on June 10!

Click the photo below to watch this moving video.

BStow visit

Spinal cord injury patients use iPads to stay connected during rehab

Bergevin familyThe Spring 2015 issue of the VMC Foundation’s Impact Report features the moving story of Chris Bergevin, the husband and father who was airlifted to VMC’s Spinal Cord Trauma Center after he dove into the ocean and struck a sand bar, damaging his spinal cord and neck.

During his rehabilitation at VMC, Chris was able to stay connected to the outside world with the inclusion of an iPad in his rehab therapy. Distribution of iPads to rehab patients is made possible by a generous grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

Chris shared, “When you’re injured and in the hospital, it’s really important to get connected to friends, family, and the outside world. This iPad made these things possible for me! I’m very grateful.”

You can read more about this story, and see updates about our other programs, in our Spring 2015 Impact Report.


“VMC changed the way we view healthcare!”

Chin family


The Spring 2014 issue of the VMC Foundation’s Impact Report features the moving story of Audrey, a young girl born with cerebral palsy who has complex medical needs. Audrey’s parents, David and Jacquelyn, had a lot of frustrations with the quality of healthcare Audrey initially received, causing them to lose faith in the medical system.

All that changed when they were referred to Valley Medical Center. “I’m embarrassed to say that we’d never heard of VMC,” recalls Jacquelyn. “The care and level of dedication that VMC provided was really such a big and pleasant surprise… VMC changed the way we view healthcare!”

Audrey turns four this year… and we’re so happy that she’s doing well!

You can read more about this story, and see updates about our other programs, in our Spring 2014 Impact Report.

Donor Investment in Innovative Health Strategy Pays Off

Donors willing to fund “out of the box” solutions to our community’s health problems can make a big impact and help improve the way VMC provides care to its patients. With grant funding from El Camino Healthcare District, Valley Health Center Sunnyvale now has a Public Health Nurse, Joy Almquist, who visits the homes of high-risk chronic disease patients to assess environmental and home conditions that influence health behavior, and assists with the coordination of community resources. Though only in its first year, the program is already having a significant impact on people’s lives.

Joy with Patients


One of the most common patient needs is assistance with medication management. Joy works with a patient named Pamela who has a complex medication regimen that includes more than 20 prescriptions plus oxygen therapy for treatment of emphysema.

Once home from a doctor’s visit, patients like Pamela can have a hard time managing all of their medications, so Joy makes home visits to provide one-on-one help with strategies for medication compliance. Joy’s work with Pamela has also helped avoid readmission to the hospital – whenever Pamela is having a hard time breathing she communicates with Joy who determines if the issue is urgent and can quickly arrange for a clinic visit. Pamela recently shared with Joy, “I don’t know what I’d do without you. This program is very important especially for people who can’t get around. You come to my home and it makes it so much easier and more personal.”

Joy also works with Melvin, another patient referred for assistance with medication management and compliance. Joy helped Melvin establish a routine for taking medications and checking his blood sugar, which has improved his health. With Joy’s help, Melvin also keeps and attends his dental and medical appointments on time, enabling him to remain home and stay independent.

Assessing environmental factors is something Joy is also trained to do. In her work with April, a patient with cirrhosis who is dealing with related symptoms, Joy focused on the importance of good nutrition and abstaining from alcohol. Together they discussed how April could adopt a liver-friendly diet, and Joy shared resources for alcohol counseling and treatment. Joy has actively helped April address barriers to attending her regular follow-up appointments with her primary care provider. April shared, “Joy has absolutely changed the way I think about my body and myself. I had the worst eating habits and, until I got sick, I never understood how it was all related. She makes me want to do all the right things to stay healthy and get my body and mind focused on long-term goals.”


Indeed, Joy says that her patients’ goals become her goals. She works to help patients maintain good health with her guidance and encouragement, which can make all the difference for those with complex medical conditions and challenging environmental factors. Having a dedicated Public Health Nurse working directly with VHC Sunnyvale’s primary care team means that every patient who needs individual support in a home setting can receive it, ideally improving the health of patients and reducing trips to the emergency room. Shari Hurst, VHC Sunnyvale Clinic Manager, shares, “I am confident that the collaboration between Public Health and Adult Primary Care at VHC Sunnyvale has helped patients in the North County area get access to key services that improve their health and well-being. The collaboration is an example of creative, patient-focused teamwork.”

El Camino Healthcare FoundationWith the support of El Camino Healthcare District, we hope to continue implementation of this innovative program at VHC Sunnyvale and establish a model of care that can be replicated to help patients throughout Santa Clara County. You can learn more about El Camino Healthcare District’s investment in the health of our community in their 2013 Community Benefit Report.



Former NICU patient now lecturing on DNA therapy

NICU BabyDana was born in 2004 at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center weighing just 530 grams.  That’s just over 1 pound. Her parents, Greg and Fan, were brought to VMC via another hospital because of VMC’s ability to manage high-risk deliveries and very low birth weight infants.

“We knew of Valley Medical; it’s well-known for providing charity care.  But we had no idea what Valley Medical would do for us,” said Greg.  “Well, we sure learned.”

Thanks to her committed parents and the dedicated, expert staff of VMCs Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dana left the hospital a happy and healthy baby.  Now, 10 years later, the 4th grader is even delivering lectures to her classmates on DNA therapy.  Dana is one of many VMC NICU success stories.  We could not be more proud. Check out her presentation below –

Concussions: When in doubt, sit ’em out!

Pop Warner CoachesI’ve never seen so many big, bald dudes in one room at the same time. Yes—these are my people.

But seriously… the event Sunday, July 21 was extremely important and the VMC Foundation is proud to have helped make it happen. 700 Pop Warner Football and Cheer coaches from around California assembled in San Jose to learn about spotting, preventing and treating concussions.

And they learned from our experts,  Valley Medical Center’s specialists:  Henry Huie, MD, Associate Chief of Physical Medicine & Rehab; Stephanie Kolakowsky-Hayner, PhD, Director of the Rehab Research Center; Gaurav Abbi, MD,  Chief of Spine Service, Dept. of Orthopedic Surgery and Kimberly Archie, CEO of the Cheer Safety Foundation. The theme of the day relates to ANY indication that a young athlete may have sustained a concussion on the field: When in doubt, sit ‘em out! (and then follow very specific protocols to assess and get treatment for an injury, of course).

You might be thinking: So how did a huge group of huge tough guys take hearing from brainiac doctors in suits? This, from Don Preble, President of Almaden Pop Warner and co-planner of the conference: “I can’t begin to tell you all just how spectacular this presentation was. Never in the 14 years I have been involved with Pop Warner have I seen 500 Football coaches sitting on the edge of their seats and listening with enthusiastic anticipation for the next piece of information.”

The coaches also heard from Chris Bauerle, a former patient of VMC’s Rehab Center. His own story of a life-threatening brain injury on the football field is frankly WAY more compelling. Chris is also a member of our peer support team at VMC, helping people with new injuries.  As if that weren’t enough star-power, we had Dan Garza, MD, team doctor for the 49’ers and Jon Butler, National President of Pop Warner who both flew out for the conference and supported the teachings.

The media was all over this event, as we’ve heard so much more lately about the tragic results of concussions leading to long-term disabilities—from the NFL on down. Of course, it’s not just football and cheerleading either, and we’re confident that this awareness will only grow.

If your employer blocks video, you can also see this great article from the Mercury News on the event. A huge thanks to Don, Laura, Stephanie, Henry, PRx and everyone who helped make young athletes safer.

VIDEO: NBC Bay Area on VMCs “groundbreaking” spinal cord injury clinical trial

View more videos at:

The following story was posted on the NBC Bay Area website on Saturday, June 15, 2013.  Story by Marianne Favro.  For more info, visit


Tom Anderson is a determined man.

He’s working hard in rehab to increase his mobility after he broke his neck and pinched his spinal cord last month in a fork lift accident.

“I hit my head on the forklift rail,” he said. “Before I know it I was paralyzed.”

The 41-year-old Mountain View resident has more than physical therapy on his side.

After his accident he was brought to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and within 12 hours after his injury he received a special shot as part of a new clinical trial.

That trial consists of receiving three shots a day of a synthetic molecule, which he was given for 28 days.

“The hope is that using these molecules — it will decrease the secondary injury and promote recovery,” said Dr.

Stephen McKenna, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s chief of rehab and trauma.

The molecule acts to prevent cell death that happens after the initial injury.

Anderson is already able to move his arms — something doctors told him was unexpected this soon given his type of injury.

“It seems after the test drugs I could move my arms and elbows,” he said. “I hope it will happen to everything else.”

View a full report by Marianne Favro by clicking on the play button on the video above.

New Institute of Regenerative Medicine being generated at VMC!

“As a physician and researcher at Stanford University and the Palo Alto VA, I was very gratified to see world leaders in spinal cord injury and regenerative medicine come together in conferences on the Stanford campus two weeks ago.  This collaboration is remarkable and essential for translating regeneration research into clinical treatments.

SCVMC Rehab has played a key role in forming these collaborations through the efforts of Dr. Stephen McKenna and his pioneering work in the first clinical trial of human embryonic stem cells for spinal cord injury. SCVMC stands to be a pillar in translational research for SCI, through the visionary leadership of Dr. Jeff Smith and Liz Kniss and Santa Clara County, which has set up the Silicon Valley Institute for Regenerative Medicine. I congratulate all involved and look forward to exciting breakthroughs in this field.”

Graham Creasey, MD

Spinal Cord injury Service, VA Palo Alto Health Care System

Professor of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, Stanford University


You may remember Katie Sharify, the young woman who made history at Valley Medical Center a year ago, when she received stem cells into her spinal cord in a ground-breaking procedure. Since then, a lot has happened. A whole lot, in fact.

First, readers of this blog may remember that VMC is now the home of the Silicon Valley Institute of Regenerative Medicine – “regenerative” meaning to use robotics, molecules and stem cells to actually cure paralysis. We are a long way off, but we have to start somewhere…and somewhere is here. And now.

Second, just after the Board of Supervisors voted for the creation of the “SV Institute”, VMC helped plan and sponsor a conference at Stanford called Regeneration, Repair and Restoration of Function after Spinal Cord Injury. The conference brought experts from around the world to Silicon Valley and examined, among a range of topics and discussions, the lessons learned from recent clinical trials of spinal cord interventions as well as knowledge management and dissemination moving forward.

Third, you may also remember that the initial trial was sponsored by a firm called Geron, who discontinued their funding of the trial just as Katie was enrolling. Well, for a number of reasons it looks like Geron is back – so watch this space for more updates on this potentially exciting development.

Because, we now know full well that launching a new field of medicine cannot be done by one corporation, or one hospital…it needs to be a collaboration between (in our case) VMC, Stanford, UCSF, the Palo Alto VA, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and many others. The launch of this collaborative has been documented expertly by David Alvarado, award-winning film maker, in his 7-minute documentary “The Cure”.

Please take the time to watch this video (above). You’ll meet some of the world’s experts and advocates in this brand-new field, including VMC’s own Stephen McKenna MD. You’ll also learn how the political will of Santa Clara County helped create this new Institute.

If you are thinking “how can I help?” then I like the way you think! Many already have, including a major gift from the Mulcahy and DiNapoli Families. If you want to be a part of this game-changing work, let us know in the comment section below.

Donors Help Make VMC’s Regional Burn Center a Healing Place for Families

(The following story was originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of the VMC Foundation Impact Report, available online by clicking here.)

16 month-old Anavieve during a follow-up visit with Burn Center resident, Dr. Lauren Fischer.

When 16 month-old Anavieve reached for a hot cup of tea, parents Christina and Teddy watched in horror as scalding liquid rained down over her chest, back and face. Knowing she would need medical attention, they called 911. Emergency Medical Techs on the scene told them they would take Anavieve to VMC’s Regional Burn Center, where she could receive the care she needed.

Christina and Teddy stayed with their small daughter over the next eight days, comforting her as Burn Center staff treated her for first and second-degree burns. This specially trained team also supported Anavieve’s parents as they dealt with a host of emotions, including guilt. Christina relates, “Not only were they wonderful with Anavieve, they were excellent with us. They gave us the tools we needed to work with her, and helped us understand that by remaining strong we could help her feel less frightened.”

Christina says that the availability of a fully equipped playroom in the nearby Pediatric Unit got the family out of the clinical setting and returned a sense of normalcy to their lives. Because of the generosity of donors to the VMC Foundation, the warm and inviting playroom is stocked with toys, movies and educational DVDs, providing needed respite for smaller patients and their families.

Christina also credits VMC Foundation donors for helping provide specialized equipment used to rehabilitate Burn Center patients, including games, activities and healing burn patient clothing. “We are so lucky to have this medical resource,” she told us. “Anavieve is home and healing well. I think the outcome could have been very different without the VMC Burn Center. I’m very grateful to this excellent team and to the donors to the VMC Foundation!”