Elayne Klasson: More than a first aid station
Klass Notes

Elayne Klasson: More than a first aid station

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Few of us want to hear endless reporting of other peoples' infirmities. We listen politely, but hope it’ll soon be over. That’s why I apologize profusely for devoting two columns in a row to the illnesses of my family.

I’ve already complained plenty about my wretched knee replacement (which is, thankfully, much less painful). So, I really do feel sorry this week for writing about my husband’s hospitalization, but that's all I got! I’ve been at either Santa Barbara Cottage or our local Santa Ynez Cottage this entire week.

Let me begin by saying that when we moved to the Santa Ynez Valley, our friends in the Bay area as well as our children were somewhat dismayed about the issue of medical care.

“You’re out there in the boonies,” they said. “As you age, how will you get the care you need?”

Well, our experience with medical care in the Santa Ynez Valley has been extraordinary. And this week, while my husband has been an in-patient at the tiny eight-bed Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital, I’ve had first-hand experience with truly special care.

Santa Barbara, I am told, has no problem attracting excellent physicians. The climate could not be more wonderful and a good majority of the population is comprised of a higher socioeconomic background that can afford and demand first-rate medical care.

Fortunately, here in the Santa Ynez Valley, we are the lucky recipients of such care as many of the specialists from Santa Barbara spend one day a week in a secondary office here in the Valley. 

This past week, my husband had an out-patient cardiac procedure at Cottage Santa Barbara. Sometimes, even the most routine procedures can result in complications.

In his case, because of a fluke in his vascular anatomy, an artery was in the wrong place. This artery was accidentally nicked during the procedure and there was a lot of bleeding.

The artery was repaired, he recovered at Santa Barbara Cottage and returned to our home in Santa Ynez.

Not two hours after returning, things went downhill.

He got a very high fever and shakes. He was really sick.

When I called the surgeon to say I was bringing my husband back to Santa Barbara Cottage, the surgeon said "No, don’t do that. Do not drive down the pass with such a sick man. Take him to Santa Ynez Cottage."

I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure about our little hospital. Frankly, I saw it as little more than a first aid station. I wanted him to be at a REAL hospital.

Well, I needn’t have worried.

From the time we entered the emergency room, he was treated with incredible kindness and skill. What my husband really liked about Santa Ynez Cottage, is that they let him sleep at night!

Unlike Santa Barbara, he was not awakened every hour to have his blood pressure and other vital signs measured. For a while this week, he was the only patient!

So, the atmosphere was quiet and peaceful. I stayed all day and the nurses showed me concern as well: Was I comfortable? Did I need a footstool? What would I like to eat?

They even set up a little table for us to have meals together. My husband joked that it was like hotel room service. Could we pretend it was a romantic get-away? All we needed was candlelight and romantic music.

But of course, it was no romantic get-away. He had a serious infection and infections can be life-threatening. An infectious disease specialists in Santa Barbara worked with the on-site doctor as well as hospital pharmacist to try to determine the nature of the infection and how to treat it.

Nurses followed infectious disease protocols to the letter. Eventually, his infection continues to show signs of decreasing. And although it is not entirely gone, my husband was discharged on Wednesday with the plan to come back two times a day, morning and night, to receive antibacterial drugs through what is called a PICC line inserted into his arm.

If there was not our local Cottage, he’d either still be an in-patient, or we’d be driving the pass two times a day to get this medicine injected.

It may be small, but we left Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital grateful and relieved that it exists.

Elayne Klasson, PhD in psychology, is a writer and recent transplant to the Valley. She was formerly on the faculty at San Jose State University. Her new novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, will be published this November.

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The facility, which provides a number of medical services including outpatient surgical services, inpatient care, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and 24-hour emergency services, was founded in 1962 by 68 women dedicated to serving the valley, according to a spokesperson for the facility.

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