Small Hospital, Top Quality Care…and Cinnamon Rolls!


A family of eight gathers together, in room 118 of a small hospital, ready to say goodbye to their matriarch, Simone.  She is 98 years old, and has suffered a stroke two days before.  The mood is solemn and quiet. In an effort to comfort the family, the hospital chef prepares refreshments and a staple comfort food, freshly baked cinnamon rolls.  The family greatly appreciated this kind gesture during this difficult time.  The delicious, fragrant aroma of the cinnamon rolls wafted into the room and Simone seemed to stir from her deep sleep.


The famous Cinnamon Rolls!

There is no confirmed correlation between the delicious smell of the cinnamon rolls, and Simone’s subsequent awakening, but it was clear at that point, that she had decided to hold on.  The next day, she was awake and alert and sitting upright in bed, enjoying a delicious breakfast, eager to go home.  Days later, she is still improving but not after a most stressful start.

Simone’s journey began with a trip in an ambulance to the hospital with signs and symptoms of a
possible stroke.  Although her family requested that she be brought to Sonoma West Medical Center, the ambulance saw it fit to take her to Memorial Hospital because of its Primary Stroke Center. Unfortunately, Memorial was extremely busy and crowded.  Simone was almost lost in the shuffle of a hectic emergency room; being moved from bay to bay and then ultimately to a hallway.  Twenty-four hours later, the families’ second request to have Simone moved was arranged.  Upon her arrival to SWMC, Simone was welcomed warmly and quickly, due to her condition, by the hospital “family.”

Two weeks later, I met with Simone’s daughter, Mai, and her husband, Xuan, in the SWMC Café. It was a rainy Friday afternoon.  They both greeted me with warm smiles and enthusiasm.  “It was a very happy drive coming back here,” Mai stated.  I was surprised at this joyful statement, because unfortunately hospitals tend to carry a negative connotation.  However, sitting with Mai and Xuan, and listening to their story, would change anyone’s perspective.  They explained that despite Mai’s mother’s health scare; they had fond memories of their experience with Sonoma West Medical Center and its staff.  Dr. Denno, whom was Simone’s primary doctor and is one of Sonoma West’s Hospitalists, diagnosed and treated Simone’s stroke.  While she recovered from her stroke, Dr. Denno took it upon herself to bring Simone ice cream everyday before she left work.  Even in Simone’s decline in her early days at the hospital, Dr. Denno called the family every hour with a progress report on her health.  “Dr. Denno’s diagnosis was spot on,” Xuan said, “Mom is recovering so well.”

As Simone continued to improve, the hospital’s quality of care never faltered.  Mai described the hospital, as “from top to bottom, all the staff was amazing.”

Simone is now recovering at a post-acute care facility where she continues to rebuild her strength, with her family by her side.  Mai and her husband are so thankful for the level of care Simone received, they have committed to being public advocates for the hospital so that other families may experience the unconditional level of care and support that they did.

At the end of our interview, Xuan and Mai asked each other to come up with a tag line for the hospital. After throwing out a few ideas, they both agreed on, “small hospital, top quality care.”


Alyssa Soares

Your Story Isn’t Over Yet – Project Semicolon


Actions speak louder then words.  This common proverb can be found in many languages, meaning that what you do is more significant then what youSemicolon Project say. This is true for many people who are struggling with mental health issues. Suicide, self-harm, and addiction are all loud actions, however, surviving and overcoming these issues speaks even louder.  Amy Bleuel is a survivor who has overcome a handful traumas and mental health issues including depression, bullying, and rape. Amy founded Project Semicolon to share her story of overcoming theses obstacles, as well as to honor her father whom she lost to suicide.

The Project Semicolon began as a social media movement in 2013, and has since become a worldwide crusade. A semicolon, as we all know, is a common punctuation mark used in grammar, to continue on a sentence. Now, the semicolon is taking on a bigger, more powerful meaning and is being used to empower those who suffer from depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide. The idea is simple, “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

On April 16th of 2013, the first Project Semicolon campaign was launched via social media channels. People were asked to draw a semicolon on their wrist if they, or someone they knew, suffer from depression, self-harm, anxiety, addiction or even a broken heart; to show their support for the project and those struggling with these issues. Three years later, individuals continue to show their support by either drawing on, or more permanently, tattooing a semi colon onto their bodies.

Unfortunately, mental health issues come accompanied with social stigmas that can cause people struggling with these feelings to feel that they are alone in their situation. The Semicolon Project has created a conversation about mental health, and has created a community of support.  “Project Semicolon is inspiring those struggling with these issues, to keep their stories going, and to be an inspiration to those who are struggling.”

For more information about Project Semicolon, please visit their website at:

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health or addiction please visit:

My Dad left a legacy of humility and trust

Sonoma West Medical Center Vital Signs Blog

Sonoma West Medical Center Vital Signs BlogThere is no easy way to lose someone in your life. No matter what your beliefs are, there is no easy way to say goodbye to a person whose life has mattered to you.  We hear stories from you about how you have dealt with feelings of loss and grief, and almost always they are life-affirming, inspiring stories.

When I lost my father I felt like the ground had caved under me.  He was my rock.  Always calm, endlessly patient and kind, my father could solve any problem.

One day not long after my father’s death I was cleaning house, dusting my bookshelves.  My father had been an avid reader and philosopher, and we shared that love of learning.  I stopped in front of the biography of Katharine Graham, Personal History, the woman who was thrust into the position of Publisher/Owner of the Washington Post in 1963 when her husband committed suicide.  My father and I had read her book together, and had admired Katharine Graham’s courage, intelligence and perseverance. We discussed her willingness to ask for help and gather trusted advisors around her. That’s when my father told me he thought the ability to humble oneself and ask for help was a rare quality in a leader, and actually the sign of a person who has learned to use trust as a path to success.

In the moment of that memory, feather duster in hand, I felt the strength of my father’s presence through his wisdom.  I “got” that this was my father’s greatest legacy to me.  I often reflect upon his ability to calmly sift through problems searching for the solution, sharing his thought process – questioning, always questioning – and then the exuberance of the ‘Aha!’ moment when he would say, “Well, what do you think of that, Janie girl? I think we found an answer!

– A Grateful Daughter