Well known, loved and respected actor John Heard died in Palo Alto on Friday after back surgery at Stanford. So let’s talk Stanford Hospital because Stanford is a major part of the Silicon Valley story. And the Medical Center has problems.
John said he had a laminectomy. As I write this we do not know what he died from and since his doctor said the surgery went really well, let’s not assume it was the surgery itself. Time will tell from the medical examiner’s office what was the cause.
John was released from Stanford Hospital 11:30 am Thursday morning, July 20th and I picked him up. Some are worried he was left for dead in the hotel for days. He was not. His surgery was the day before. His room was not ready yet at the Sheraton so we came to my house and had lunch. He was using a walker but did not seem in significant pain. He was in some pain but it seemed he was dealing with it. We spent several hours here and then checked him in to the hotel by 3. By that time he was significantly worse on the pain scale and wondering what to do. It was harder for him to move and he was visually uncomfortable.
He called his surgeon and left a message. There was no response. Later that afternoon he called again and this time I heard the message he left. It was lengthy and descriptive. He expressed deep frustration that there had been no call back, that no one had told him what to expect in terms of pain and for how long and what he should do about it. He mentioned the lack of information he had been given as he left the hospital.
These were the same comments he made to me throughout the afternoon. I was not in the hospital as he was being released and can only report what John said regarding his care at the hospital upon leaving. He was also unhappy with the very short visit from his doctor at the hospital.
It was frustrating to watch the pain increase and John’s misery along with it. We decided to Google his operation and see what to expect post op. I used Web MD figuring they would be as close to Stanford’s mindset as any site. They described what he was going through (pain and the meds to use for it) and it seemed to fit his experience. He felt better knowing that pain was to be expected at this time but should decrease over time.
Which brought us back again to the doctor. When I left John that night he was still waiting for a call back. We had planned on a little car drive through Stanford (across the street from his hotel) which he asked for but then he decided against it as he also decided against dinner at the hotel restaurant. Too much pain.
I told him to call when he was ready the next day if he wanted dinner together or needed something, otherwise I would let him rest and watch TV.
The call never came. Alive at 11 am on Friday but gone by 1 pm.
Stanford Med thinks highly of itself. It recently announced it had completed research that shows good nutrition is important before and after surgery and people should eat. Newsflash: always has been known that eating well helps improve surgery outcomes. John received no information on nutrition that I know of.
Stanford has a good reputation but facts are something else.
On July 11, 2017 abc7news reported:
….the infection rate at Stanford isn’t just bad by comparison to other Bay Area hospitals, it’s actually among the lowest 25 percent of all hospitals across the United States.
Anish Singh sits with patients at Stanford University Medical Center all day long. “I’m here today because I care about the patient’s safety,” he said.
Singh is part of the workers’ union that says Stanford has a higher infection rate than seven other Bay Area teaching hospitals.”Stanford is supposed to be a world renowned hospital. It’s just shocking,” Stanford unit secretary Linda Cornell said.
Cornell attributes the high infection rate to under staffing and a lack of training for housekeepers. “On the day-to-day basis it seems like a factory mentality, patients are pushed in and pushed out, everybody is rush, rush, rush, we’re short staffed.
Stanford: you have to do better. No one deserves to put their lives in your hands, pay your salaries and not have enough help.
Was John the victim of “rush, rush, rush”? No information on after care? what to eat? what to expect? how to take meds? Perhaps not making sure he had the info with him if given? Lack of it to begin with? He says he received none.
RIP John Heard and thank you for the years of joy you brought to all. The film archive that is your life is grand in scope and moving and skillfully crafted and a gift to those you leave behind. You were outspoken and quirky and stood up for your friends. This post is a gift to you in hopes it makes a ripple in the pond and saves others, in your honor and your memory. Maybe Stanford had nothing to do with why you died and I do not dismiss the good they do, but sometimes, some things need to be said. Tangential or causal is not that important when it comes to better outcomes. They just need to happen.