Thursday, January 15, 2009

Safely at Stanford

We had a very smooth trip, for a wonder: hardly any traffic -- except waiting to cross the Bay Bridge, where the woman ahead of us paid our toll! -- and only two oxygen-tank changes. We made the 253 miles in 4.5 hours, which isn't bad at all, and Dad enjoyed the scenery through the mountains.

Stanford University Medical Center is an experience. First of all, the place is huge, and very busy, with a chaotic pick-up/drop-off area in front of the main entrance. Gary said it reminded him of an airport.

Secondly, there's a weird pseudo-resort feel. The grounds are gorgeous and there's beautiful artwork inside -- I expect no less of hospitals these days -- but there's also jarring verbiage: patients referred to as "guests," a booklet of "guest services," a "cancer concierge." The place is being marketed as an upscale spa, complete with a full line of logo items in the gift shop. You can buy Stanford University Medical Center t-shirts, sweatshirts, pens, messenger bags, backpacks, toilet kits, leather portfolios, and keychains. I half expected to see a t-shirt that said, "My loved one went to Stanford University Medical Center for last-ditch chemotherapy, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

The resort image fades the second you see a patient, bald and pushing an IV pole, wandering along the hallways, looking at the artwork. I'm really glad the patients have gorgeous hallways to wander, but I did find the gift shop a bit . . . distasteful? Although I joked to Gary and Dad that if Dad's procedure goes well tomorrow, I'll buy a t-shirt to commemorate the event.

On a more somber note, the cardiology fellow who explained the procedure to Dad says that the longest he's seen the benefits last in anyone is six months. (This is the control group, remember, not the experimental one.) Ugh. But hey, six good months -- or two months or three months -- is a good thing, especially when you're eighty-six.

Elsewhere on the kvetch list, Dad was very annoyed by how short his oxygen tubing was (they were about to fix that when Gary and I left). I was also quite shocked, when I went into a women's room on the main floor, to discover a woman in a wheelchair trapped on the other side of the door into the corridor. The doorknob was round; she has spastic hands, and couldn't turn it. I mean, honestly! You'd expect a world-class teaching hospital to fix really basic accessibility issues like that: all they have to do is put one of those lever handles on the door. But I complained about it, so maybe they will.

Oh, and I got university e-mail with a letter from the governer attached, explaining that because of the state budget crisis, he's recommending a 6% salary cut for all state employees. This makes sense, and it's a lot better than laying people off, but as I've said before, we really need a state income tax (which no politician will want, or be able, to push through). Gary and I will be okay; I'm not sure how this will affect the assisted-living computations, but we'll figure that out when we have a better sense of what's happening when.

So today, we drove 250 miles; then Gary and I checked Dad into the hospital, visited a little bit, checked into our hotel, napped (me) and walked (him), went to dinner at a pretty good fish place, visited with Dad some more, and then left, exhausted. None of us got much sleep last night, and I didn't feel very rested even after my nap. We're all going to conk out tonight!


  1. Susan, It's good to hear that travel was smooth and pleasant. That sounds like one great hospital. I hope all goes well for your Dad and that the improved heart function helps him get much stronger.

    Prayers & Hugs,

  2. Anonymous1:01 PM

    I too am glad to hear things went well. I would to suggest an afternoon's getaway if you have the opportunity. The ocean is only about 45 minutes from Palo Alto and on the way is a fabulous little general store/bookstore/bar/music venue called the "San Gregorio General Store." I highly recommend it and the beach that located a few more miles down the road. Both good for the spirit.


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