University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., isn't the first hospital to recognize that its stark decor doesn't exactly spur the healing process. But its white walls will be the first to undergo a makeover in front of a national TV audience.
On March 13, ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will air a two-hour special on a five-day refurbishing blitz of its first nonresidential building-portions of a blood-and-marrow transplantation unit at the 318-bed teaching hospital. The family of a precocious 8-year-old patient, Kassandra Vokbath, contacted the show after spending more than two months there undergoing two different transplant procedures. She's one of the hospital's annual 150 transplant patients, many of them children.
"No child should ever have to die staring at a white wall," Vokbath told the manager of the blood-and-marrow transplantation program, Jennifer Christian. Vokbath thought safari or princess themes could make rooms seem like an adventure, Christian says. Vokbath told her, "Instead of going into a hospital for a month, it could be like going on a vacation for a month."
The remodeled areas included six patient rooms for kids, a playroom, a resting spot and a consultation room, or what Vokbath calls the "bad news room." The panels in the patient rooms, painted by Walt Disney Co. outreach volunteers, are removable because morphine and steroids could cause patients to have hallucinations. In a seashore mural, the drugs could make it look like a big fish is coming right at you.
Christian was initially reluctant to let the makeover crew in because of the severely weakened immune systems of the patients. "Knowing how sick our patients are, my people were very worried," she says. But she says both the show and Vokbath persisted, with the child saying she'd rather help scores of future kids rather than get anything for herself. Of the white walls before the makeover, Vokbath says, "They needed some help."
Press release heralds not much
U.S. Reps. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) again proposed to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee healthcare for every American. Or so they thought.
Their House Joint Resolution 30 was heralded in a press release last week, but it was quickly reeled back in. A subsequent release from Stark's office stated, "Due to the legislative procedure for the introduction of proposed constitutional amendments, the following constitutional amendment has not been introduced in the House as expected."
Unfortunately, as Stark and Jackson were set to peddle their oft-proposed amendment, the sponsors of Joint Resolution 27 decided to pull theirs, setting off a chain of events that created a gap between resolution 26 and the Stark-Jackson offering.
Congressional rules mandate that you can't have such a gap, even though Frank Watkins, a spokesman for Jackson, says the congressman has reserved resolutions 28 to 36, though we aren't sure why.
Later in the week No. 27 was restored and No. 30, proposing "all persons shall enjoy the right to healthcare of equal high quality," was reintroduced, if only long enough to go nowhere yet again.
At some hospitals,the food available away from inpatient rooms often means national fast-food chains such as McDonald's or Pizza Hut, where nary a whole grain is to be found. At a growing number of facilities, an awareness of nutrition's role in healthy lifestyles has led to an emphasis on fruit, vegetables and, yes, those boring whole grains.
And where else would you expect to find the latter approach taken to its vegetarian extreme than in Northern California?
"It's those crazy Berkeley types, what can I tell you?" says Preston Maring, 59, a physician who was the driving force behind the idea to open a full-fledged farmer's market outside Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in May 2003.
Since that bountiful debut almost two years ago, Maring's elegantly simple concept-healthy food offered on the grounds of an institution based on preventive care-has been duplicated at 14 other Kaiser sites in California and Hawaii. And there's more to come, with similar operations planned in Oregon and Colorado.
"The trend is that hospitals are beginning to evaluate the relationship between the food they serve and the health of patients, their staff and their communities," says Kelly Heekin, a spokeswoman for Health Care Without Harm, a group promoting an "ecologically sustainable healthcare system."
The farmer's market in Oakland came, well, naturally, to Maring, an associate physician-in-chief at Kaiser Oakland. Maring says he has abstained from fast foods for the last 10 years. The market in Oakland, which is "like a block party" for four hours every Friday, is now doing a booming business, he says.
"My thought was this: Why don't we do something that's a little more consistent with our mission?"
Jude Law wasn't the only Hollywood star to take a public beating during the Academy Awards telecast last week.
Inside the Kodak Theatre, host Chris Rock ridiculed the British actor before an audience of 42.1 million American viewers. Outside the event, the California Nurses Association aired its harsh critique of Arnold Schwarzenegger's skills as an actor and a governor.
It's unknown how many saw the airplane flying above the red carpet bearing a banner that said, "Bad actors make worse governors."