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:

A new year, and new hope for one family…

I received a very difficult phone call three months ago. I’ll never forget it.

Now, before I tell you how this story ends, I invite you to read the following letter I received just a week ago…

Dear Chris:

Back in September of this year you received a call from a mutual friend, Dave Henderson. I think Dave explained that our 16 year old son, Christian Bauerle, sustained a serious injury in a football game and was in intensive care up at Stanford.

Christian sustained an injury to his brain stem artery which caused a blood clot and stroke. The doctors at Stanford performed emergency surgery on him to clear the clot.

We were told that if he survives they did not know to what extent he would regain his functions. At the time I spoke with Dave the doctors at Stanford thought that Christian’s best chance at recovery would be immediate aggressive physical therapy. I spoke with Dave on Wednesday night September 10th and by Thursday afternoon a VMC representative met with Christian and us. By Friday September 12th around noon Christian was admitted into VMC.

Christian was at VMC for eight weeks. When he arrived all he could do was move his eyes and his left leg some. By the end of the eight weeks he was lifting weights, walking, climbing stairs, eating and talking. My wife Karen and I, along with Christian and his brothers and sister, are very grateful for everything you did to get Christian into VMC. We also want to give our thanks to Dr. Duong, Dr. Lin, Amy, Hubert, Kei, Carlo and the rest of the staff in the head injury section of the hospital.

Enclosed is a check in the amount of $1,000 for the VMC Foundation to be used for whatever the hospital committee deems necessary to continue VMC’s fine health programs.

Christian continues to recover now at home, is attending school, and plans to make the high school basketball team next year. We thank you and the VMC staff again for all that you have done for Christian and our family.


Randy Bauerle

So there’s the letter. Now you see why I’ll never forget it. Though he has a long road ahead, VMC’s Rehab Team (with the support of a great family and determined young man) have once again defied the odds.

I promised to tell you how the story ends. Well, in fact, it hasn’t yet. You see, I spoke to Randy (Christian’s Dad) at length yesterday and they want very much to be involved. If you come to VMC Foundation’s events this year, chances are you’ll meet them. If you visit VMC’s Rehab Center this year, Christian may be there providing peer support or volunteering.

And if you attend the right High School basketball game this fall, watch for him. He’ll be the guy with the most positve attitude on the court…and probably the most points on the board.

A gift for Edgar, and a happy Thanksgiving

Edgar Flores was introduced to Silicon Valley on Monday…and by Tuesday morning, Silicon Valley was already doing what it does so well: Helping in a time of need.

Today, a day later, I walked in to the office in the early afternoon to find the VMC Foundation staff sniffing back tears as they opened envelope after generous envelope. Thousands of dollars, yes, but more touching: The cards, letters and wishes of well for a little boy who deserves all good things.

In case you missed this amazing story, please read the article from wonderful Mercury News columnist Patty Fisher, which launched this flood of giving – and have a happy Thanksgiving!
Fisher: A gift for Edgar

By Patty Fisher
Mercury News

Edgar Flores wants to be a doctor when he grows up. And what is it exactly that doctors do?

“They poke,” he tells me. “And they help children.”
Five-year-old Edgar has become quite an expert on doctors. After a car fire in July 2007 left him burned over 85 percent of his body, he spent five months in the burn unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and had 16 operations. Several times, his doctors didn’t think he would make it.
But Edgar had too many plans to give up.

“I want to grow up to be a doctor and a firefighter,” he says now. “And a police!”

Weeks after leaving the hospital last December, he was running around and riding his scooter. Last month he was named student of the month in his kindergarten class at Trace Elementary School in San Jose .

“He always does his best,” said Kathy Rivera, assistant nurse manager of the burn unit. “He’s such a happy child that it makes it hard to feel sorry for him.”

Last week, Edgar was back at VMC for more painful skin grafts, and I stopped by to pay him and his parents a visit. The door to his hospital room was decorated with seasonal pictures of turkeys and a cornucopia he had colored in with crayons. He showed me his temporary tattoos — the planet Saturn and a shark — that decorate his arms, which are crisscrossed with marks from skin grafts.

“My nurse, Jennifer, gave me those tattoos,” he said proudly.

Edgar is a slender little boy with bright eyes and long, dark eyelashes, the only hair on his head. He has just two fingers on his right hand. Flannel pajamas conceal the scars on his legs, and two bandages on his tummy cover the places where healthy skin had been removed and grafted onto his neck.

He doesn’t remember much about the fire. He and his big brother were on their way home from a family gathering in his uncle’s Volkswagen van on a warm July day. As they drove through Pacheco Pass on Highway 152, the engine in the rear of the van caught fire.

Edgar, who was strapped in a booster seat in back, couldn’t get out. His uncle and 8-year-old brother, Jose, tried to release him. Jose badly burned his hands and face. Eventually another driver stopped and used a knife to cut Edgar out before the fire trucks arrived.

From the day Edgar and Jose arrived at VMC, the family won the hearts of the staff.
“We watched the way the family stepped up, how worried Jose was about his little brother,” Rivera said. “We’ve watched these parents work with Edgar and help him cope with his injuries. He does really well with what he has.”

As we stood around Edgar’s hospital bed, his mother, Margireta, gently stretched the muscles in his feet. He has a tracheostomy, a permanent opening in his throat, and she needs to clear it several times a day. But she can’t keep up with him on the playground.

“All the children know they have to be careful with him,” she said in Spanish.

Edgar’s father, Miguel, lost his job detailing cars because he spent so much time at the hospital. Since then he has had only occasional construction jobs. MediCal pays for Edgar’s treatment, but his parents are having trouble making ends meet. In addition to Jose and Edgar, they have a 3-year-old son, Miguel Jr.

“We have gotten help from family,” his father said, “but it has been very, very difficult.”
That’s when the people who saved Edgar’s life stepped in with some extra special caregiving. The nurses in the burn unit passed the hat and raised $720 in three days to help the family pay its rent. Local firefighters pitched in $2,000.

VMC spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said the staff members will provide gifts for the Flores family this Christmas. But they’re hoping others in the community will step up and help buy Edgar the present he wants more than anything: a computer.

The injuries to his hands will make it difficult to type or write with a pencil, so it’s essential that he adapt to a computer in order to succeed in school.

“He needs something with a touch screen because his fingers aren’t strong enough to use a mouse,” Alexiou said.

When she first told me Edgar’s story, I thought it odd that the burn-unit nurses, who see so many severely injured children, so many family tragedies, would take up the cause of this one little boy. But having met him, I understand.

“He’s a very smart little boy with a wonderful attitude,” Rivera said. “He has us all wrapped around his little finger.”

if you’re interested: To help Edgar, mail checks made out to “The Edgar Flores Fund” to the VMC Foundation, 2400 Moorpark Ave. #207, San Jose 95128. Or donate online at

VMC’s surgeons help a man breathe on his own

The following story appeared Friday on NBC 11 News, and reminds us why spinal cord injury care at Valley Medical Center is above and beyond…and why we must protect Silicon Valley’s largest hospital. Read on!

San Jose Surgeons Help Paralyzed Man Breathe on His Own
Procedure could allow thousands of people to regain critical functions

By Jane Ann Furer

Doctors at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center performed a first of its kind surgery to help a paralyzed man breathe on his own.

Four months ago, 59-year-old Kevin Brady fell at his home in Tucson, Arizona. He broke his neck, fractured his skull and until last week, relied on a ventilator to help him breathe.
Oct. 15, a team of surgeons at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) in San Jose implanted electrodes in the muscles of his diaphragm.

They stimulate the diaphragm’s muscles to expand and contract, which pulls air in and out of the lungs.

Those electrodes are connected to a pacemaker that’s worn outside the body.

The procedure is significant because it’s the first time it’s been performed on a recently injured patient.

Doctors say it works because the muscles can still regain function as opposed to someone with an old injury.

“When Kevin’s diaphragm muscles recover their strength, he will be able to breathe without a ventilator for longer and longer periods of time,” said Dr. Akshat Shah, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at SCVMC. “Even though he came to us with severe pulmonary problems, his progress so far has been remarkable.”

SCVMC is one of the first hospitals in the nation to perform such a procedure.

Doctors say it could open the door for hundreds or even thousands of paralyzed Californians to breathe, taste, smell and talk normally for the first time since their injuries.

A new baby at VMC!

First, because not everyone reads the Mercury News (but should) on weekends, a very compelling letter from a local hero supporting Measure A on Saturday:

Measure A is a matter of life and death

Measure A is the single most important issue on the ballot in Santa Clara County this November. Every day, police officers and firefighters dispatch ambulances to Valley Medical Center for patients to receive lifesaving trauma services at Valley Medical Center’s Level 1 trauma and burn centers.

Regardless of where a person lives in Santa Clara County, chances are they will be taken to Valley Medical Center in the event of a serious accident or emergency, and they would definitely end up in Valley Medical Center’s burn center in the event of serious fire and burn injuries.

Measure A is a matter of life and death, and that’s why public safety personnel and organizations urge you to vote yes on Measure A.

Art Marshall
President Santa Clara County Firefighters

…and another on Sunday, from a young Saratogan…what this letter doesn’t tell you is that Marie crashed her car on graduation day:

Pass Measure A so VMC is here for you

I crashed my Volvo on Highway 9 in Saratoga and the only thing I can remember is lying on the ground next to my open car door. I was rushed to Valley Medical Center’s trauma unit. The paramedics were concerned that I might have serious internal injuries. Had Valley Medical Center not been around, there is a very good chance I would have not had the immediate care I needed. With Measure A appearing on the ballot in a couple of weeks, I know how lucky I was to have VMC to care for me after my accident.

Please vote yes on A so that Valley Medical Center will be here for you or your family members when you need it most.

Marie Stark

These letters and others like it are appearing in newspapers every day around Silicon Valley – read your local papers and see!

What I wanted to share with you is that my friend DeAnn had her first baby this week at VMC! After thirty hours of labor, she had a C-section, and 9-pound Zachary was brought into the world!

De shared with me that the whole time she was in pre-natal care, right on up through the birth, she was treated like a princess by the team at VMC. This of course is no surprise to me or you, the alert reader, but it is a surprise to many who still don’t get that VMC is probably the safest place to have a baby in Silicon Valley. Congratulations, De and Jamie, on the new addition to your family!

Incidentally, the morning of Zachary’s arrival, I was touring a group of young First 5 staff members through VMC, and we shared an elevator ride to up to Labor/Delivery with Dr. Steve Harris, our chair of pediatrics. One of the young staff members, she herself expecting a child, asked if we could see the “nursery” where all the babies could be viewed through the window.

Dr. Harris smiled. “We don’t do it like that anymore,” he explained. “As soon as we can, we want the babies right there with their moms.”

And so it was when I visited De…just hours after a C-section, Zachary was right there in the room with her, gurgling away happily. The way it should be.

Trauma Team saves a life under extraordiary circumstances…

The best place to perform emergency trauma surgery is in an O.R.

But when that’s impossible, VMC’s trauma team will go the extra mile(s) to save a life. That’s what happened this week, as the following incredible story graphically describes:
San Martin winery employee loses leg after accident; doctors perform amputation on site

By Lisa Fernandez
Mercury News 10-8-08

A 20-year-old man working at a San Martin winery lost his right leg after he got caught in a piece of equipment used to drill holes in wine barrels.

Mike Van Loben Sels, battalion chief for the South Santa Clara County Fire Protection District, said the accident was reported at 9:47 p.m. Monday at ASV Wines, 12805 Llagas Road.

The employee’s leg was caught in an auger — a large spiral screw used in different parts of the wine production process, such as removing grape skins.

Valley Medical Center doctors flew by helicopter to the winery and helped extract the man from the machine.

Dr. John Sherk, chief trauma surgeon, and anesthesiologist Dr. Barry Waddell amputated the man’s right leg at mid-thigh, before he was taken to Valley Medical in San Jose.

“It’s amazing,” said hospital spokeswoman Amy Carta. “The community should know that doctors go out to the site when necessary.”

When all around you is collapsing…

…your hospital better not.

Judy is my neighbor, and her life was saved by Valley Medical Center when her house crushed her in the Quake of 1989. It seems strange to call Judy “lucky”, but that’s how she feels looking back on the hours after the second floor of her Los Gatos home landed on top of her as she tried to escape.

Judy is my neighbor, and her story is so compelling that we wanted to capture it on film. It’s wrong to say this is a low-budget production, because that would imply that we had SOME kind of budget. So, this likely won’t win us an Academy Award – but if they gave Oscars out for saving lives, my neighbors – and the trauma team at VMC – would deserve one.

The point is this: We don’t know when the next life-threatening earthquake will hit, but we know it’s coming. Parts of Valley Medical Center need to be replaced because they don’t meet seismic standards for a quake much larger than the one in 1989. And Judy knows that if VMC had not been there for her, she wouldn’t be here today. Period.

Please watch this short video (send it to your personal email if your employer blocks YouTube) and then visit to learn about Measure A on the November ballot.
Then ask yourself the question I opened with: When all around you is collapsing, shouldn’t your hospital remain at the ready?

“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.”