Linda Bookout.
(Via Linda Bookout)
Opinion from Community Voices

I spent 15 days as an inpatient at Dominican Hospital; the staff made all the difference

Linda Bookout, 76, spent 15 days at Dominican Hospital fighting first pneumonia and then a blood irregularity. She had a miraculous experience — not only because her health inexplicably improved, but also because of the kindness the staff showed her. She thanks many — by name — here. Health care workers, she reminds us, are crucial to community well-being.

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I recently spent 15 days in June as an inpatient at Dominican Hospital. After receiving an amazing dose of kindness from everyone who took care of me, I’m inspired to shout out that “humankindness” is much more than a motto at Dominican.

Health care workers might often get forgotten, but I know from my own experience that they are the ones who set the tone in the hospital, where patients feel scared and vulnerable.

Blessed by good genes and good health for 76 years, I had never been a hospital inpatient (except at Community Hospital’s birth center, where my second son was born).

In June, a virus I contracted developed into pneumonia, which was diagnosed by the crackling sound of my lungs. The doctor at urgent care prescribed antibiotics, which I took for seven days.

On the day after finishing the course of antibiotics, I became very ill — nauseous and weak, barely able to make my way to bed from the bathroom. Fortunately, my sister called and could tell from my voice that I needed immediate care.

I trusted my sister’s intuition, but I really didn’t want an ambulance to transport me to the hospital. Fortunately, a nearby friend was available to drive me to Dominican Hospital, where my alarming vital signs led to evaluation in the emergency room.

By then, I realized that my health was gravely compromised.

The atmosphere in the ER was alarming, with other patients in extreme distress, which was both visible and within hearing range in the bays adjoining mine. Still, the competence and kindness of the staff — as well as the comforting presence of my friend, and then my son — made waiting in the ER tolerable.

Three hours later, I was admitted to Dominican and taken to a room on the second floor in a section everyone called 2NE. There, the nurses and patient care team continued treating me with competence and kindness. This healing atmosphere allowed me to surrender and trust that all would be well.

Little did I know then that my stay at Dominican would last for 15 days.

Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

I had a mysterious blood disorder that resulted in many tests to rule out possible causes — including a CT chest scan, which revealed a pulmonary embolism and an ultrasound of my legs, which showed a right lower leg blood clot. I also had a bone marrow biopsy to rule out cancer, had an inferior vena cava filter installed to prevent further clots from moving upward, and multiple blood draws each day to try to solve the mystery of my illness.

Each of these procedures was humanized by the professional technicians who administered the tests. In the radiology department, I encountered Moji, who shared my affection for Persian culture. In ultrasound, I met Laurie, who helped me visualize my organs in living color.

Lab techs (all dressed in red uniforms) routinely drew blood so expertly, I didn’t even wince — actually. Pete kindly found me outside on the terrace several times, and I hardly noticed his blood draws as I sat in the sun at the “spa resort” that I jokingly named 2NE.

Linda Bookout.
(Via Linda Bookout)

I also needed many procedures to try to fix the imbalances of my blood — including infusions of platelets and transfusions of cryoprecipitate and fibrinogen. The registered nurses who administered them were experts with IV ports and didn’t flinch — even when the port failed and needed to be changed to the other arm, as happened with Jenn and Grace.

Other RNs offered their wisdom: Nicki reminded me to “keep it simple.” Big Mark, a night nurse, told me to “trust yourself.” Sarah distracted me with plans for her July wedding. Alma inspired me with her willingness to work two 16-hour shifts in a row.

In the realm of comfort, the patient care team was cheerful about helping to take care of my needs. Sandra created a “spa day” by providing me with a shower cap, shampoo and bath wipes. Susanna located a comfortable recliner and covered it with a blue blanket, which made a huge difference in my ease while receiving transfusions. Giovanni from housekeeping found a portable fan which improved the ventilation in my room. Carla and Jay from the kitchen provided healthy and delicious meals.

Throughout this life-changing experience, I encountered humankindness from every person and each department. I could name 50 individuals who offered their personal-professional humankindness to me as a patient.

Instead of feeling frightened, I felt engaged in our mutual efforts for me to become healthy again. My sister was also a major support, by my side during visiting hours, keeping track of medical procedures and updating loved ones of what was happening to me.

Eventually, after ruling out many possibilities, my doctors determined that my case was beyond “the scope of operations” in Santa Cruz. With 222 beds, Dominican is a relatively small community hospital. My case was referred to Stanford and UC San Francisco, much larger teaching hospitals.

Perhaps intrigued by the mystery of my blood disorder, UCSF accepted me — but had no empty beds. While waiting for a bed and transport to UCSF, the medical team at Dominican continued to give me transfusions and TLC.

Then, an incredible turnaround happened: My blood stabilized, making me eligible for a blood thinner. After 15 days at Dominican, I was discharged to home. After several weeks of blood-thinner self-injections and mindful movement with a walker, I am now fully recovered.

Over a month later, I know that I experienced a miracle and a lasting reset in my sweet life. I savor neighborhood walks, adventures with friends and celebrations with family.

I wish to express my gratitude to everyone at Dominican Hospital who contributed to my well-being. Because of the professional care and humankindness I received at Dominican, I am safe, protected and well.

Linda Bookout has accumulated over 40 years of memories in Santa Cruz and a wonderful sense of belonging. She lives in a “treehouse” (a townhouse protected by eucalyptus trees) overlooking downtown and the Boardwalk. She believes just to be is a blessing.