Archive for August, 2009

What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times. And you were there.” That was Walter Cronkite’s weekly signoff in the 1950s when he hosted TV docu-dramas, You Are There, which reenacted historic events.

Here in no particular order are some of the events that altered and illuminated the past week or so in West Marin. And now, thanks to the wonders of photography and the Internet, you were there.

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The little possum which almost every night drops by for a visit is often a bit intimidated by the larger raccoons which also show up. Last Wednesday the possum was particularly chagrined when a raccoon walked overhead on the railing of my deck en route to the birdbath.

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A joyful Linda Petersen, the advertising manager of The West Marin Citizen, came home to Point Reyes Station Saturday after two and a half months of hospitalization.

Linda suffered 11 broken ribs, two broken vertebrae, two broken ankles, a broken leg, a broken kneecap, a broken arm, and a punctured lung when she fell asleep at the wheel June 13 and hit a utility pole in Inverness.

Linda’s left leg is still in a cast, and she continues to need a wheelchair to get around. However, she no longer wears casts on her right leg and left arm or the steel-and-carbon halo that had immobilized her head and neck for seven weeks.

Today she spent a few minutes in The Citizen office and expects to now spend a few hours at her desk most weekdays. Friends and West Marin Senior Services are providing her with meals until she can cook again.

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Redwood Empire Disposal, which is franchised to pick up garbage throughout West Marin, this week held its “summer community cleanup.” It was a chance for us customers to stack up to 14 bags, boxes, or cans of bulky waste at curbside to be carted off.

On Campolindo Way, our friendly garbageman Víctor showed up today to haul away the neighborhood’s junk. I had just spent two days cleaning out the basement in preparation for his arrival. Every time the garbage company holds these infrequent events, I scramble to collect half-forgotten stuff I’m finally ready to get rid of.

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Here Víctor uses neighbors Skip and Renée Shannon’s recycling bin to hoist their junk into the garbage truck.

Like many West Marin residents, I spend several days each summer trimming trees and brush to make my property safer from wildfires, and here too my personal schedule is regulated by Redwood Empire Disposal’s schedule. The garbage company picks up yard waste only every other week. That invariably leads to a lot of limb lopping just before each pickup.

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Mornings have been foggy most days recently in West Marin with the fog (seen here over Inverness Ridge and along Papermill Creek) typically burning off before noon.

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The view from my deck reminded me of the wildfires that have been burning elsewhere in California. But it was merely the sun setting behind a fog bank. Gracias a Dios por eso.

West Marin Citizen ad manager Linda Petersen, who has been hospitalized since June 13, is scheduled to return to West Marin Saturday. She’s excited to be coming home, and many of us are quite happy for her.

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Linda in the courtyard of the Rafael Convalescent Hospital this week.

Making possible Linda’s return is her rapid progress since the beginning of August when she got out of a steel-and-carbon halo that had immobilized her head and neck and then had casts taken off her right leg and left arm. She can now get in and out of a wheelchair on her own.

Linda suffered 11 broken ribs, two broken vertebrae, two broken ankles, a broken leg, a broken kneecap, a broken arm, and a punctured lung when she fell asleep at the wheel June 13 and hit a utility pole in Inverness.

Ever since then she’s been in a series of hospitals: Marin General, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, and (for a month and a half) the Rafael Convalescent Hospital in San Rafael.

Linda still cannot put any weight on her left leg, having shattered her left ankle and broken the left femur, which now has a permanent metal plate on it. She was already carrying a metal plate from a hip replacement in 2006, and today I happened to be present today when a Kaiser doctor looked over Linda’s x-rays and told her she will certainly trigger airport metal detectors from now on.

I had driven Linda from the convalescent hospital to Kaiser’s Terra Linda hospital for a CAT scan. It was the first time in two months Linda had been outside a hospital in an automobile and not an ambulance.

Because the procedure was brief and the day was warm, I suggested we stop for lunch at Sol Food, a Puerto Rican café, since Linda had lived in Puerto Rico for more than 20 years. Sol Food has two locations a block apart in San Rafael, and we chose the smaller one, which has a bit of a garden. It was Linda’s first chance in two months to enjoy the outside world, and she was as giddy as a prisoner just freed from Guantanamo.

And as of Saturday, Linda will be at home in the Old Point Reyes School House Compound across Highway 1 from West Marin School.

It will be a few weeks before Linda can cook for herself, and a number of her friends are volunteering to bring meals. West Marin Senior Services, which will provide dinners Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, has asked me to make up the schedule.

If any readers of this blog would like to also help out, they can email me at davemi@horizoncable.com giving a first, second, and third choice for which meal(s), which day(s), they could provide. I’ll get back to them. Linda’s only request, by the way, is that the meals not be as bland as hospital food.

Several hundred people on Saturday attended the annual Inverness Fair at the town’s firehouse green. The day of fundraising began with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department. The fair also coincided with the Inverness Library’s annual book sale.

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As a benefit for Inverness School, the Inverness Store barbecued oysters and sold beer.

The Inverness Yacht Club sold hotdogs to benefit its youth sailing program, and West Marin Community Services sold tostadas, beer, and sodas to raise funds for the Waterdogs, a program that teaches children living around Tomales Bay how to swim. Jim and Julie Monsoon sold ice cream to benefit West Marin Senior Services.

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Scoby Zook, a director of Inverness Public Utility District, sold raffle tickets to raise money for the Inverness Association.

The Inverness Association was founded in 1930 as the Inverness Improvement Association.

In his book Summer Town, the late historian Jack Mason of Inverness traces the association’s origin to 1921 when the “Inverness Association for Fire Protection and General Betterment” first appeared on the public record, complaining about a local real estate magnate’s water system.

In 1930, it was incorporated as the Inverness Improvement Association. The association’s purpose, he noted, was “the collection of funds and their expenditure on the construction and maintenance of roads, trails, bridges, and culverts, and for the public welfare of the town.”

As a “political body with little authority, the trails were the association’s domain,” the historian wrote. “It could petition the county on behalf of its membership, but little more.”

The association began getting involved in “off-the-trail” issues when investors in the 1940s began buying beaches that had been open to the public and building homes on them, board member Michael Mery told reporter Will Kennedy of the old Point Reyes Light four years ago.

Alarmed by the trend, association members successfully fought for the creation of Tomales Bay State Park, which officially came into existence in 1952. Association members in the 1960s also joined the fight to create the Point Reyes National Seashore.

In early 1970 the association’s then-president Michael Whitt, MD, proposed that the group’s name be changed from the Inverness Improvement Association to the Inverness Association. “The idea being there was nothing to improve,” he told The Light reporter.

All the same, the IA (as it is often called) has remained active in land-use planning issues. And in 2004, it spearheaded the drive to have county government create the center median through downtown to slow traffic on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

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For a third year, fairgoers were entertained by the band System 9, which played a mélange of jazz, popular music, and hard rock.

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Along with a row of tables providing information about the Coastal Health Alliance, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, and the National Park Service, other booths sold crafts, art, jams and jellies.

Among those selling crafts was Maidee Moore of Inverness, who sold ornate canes to help finance surgery for Third World children with cleft lips and palates. Along with helping these children, Maidee for years was a leader of the Tomales Bay Waterdogs. In June, she was marshal of the Western Weekend Parade.

Co-chairmen for this year’s fair were Jerry Abbott, Tom Branon, and Ken Emanuels.

100_26282West Marin Citizen ad manager Linda Petersen, who has been hospitalized ever since a horrific car wreck June 13, this past week made significant progress in her recovery.

On Friday, a doctor at the Kaiser Medical Center in Oakland removed the steel-and-carbon halo (right) that had immobilized her head and neck for seven weeks.

Linda suffered 10 broken ribs, two broken vertebrae, two broken ankles, a broken leg, a broken kneecap, a broken arm, and a punctured lung when she fell asleep at the wheel June 13 and hit a utility pole in Inverness.

For the past five weeks, Linda has been in the Rafael Convalescent Hospital in San Rafael. Not only were her head and neck in the medical halo, which was screwed into her skull, she had casts on both legs and her left arm. She could look only straight ahead and could use only her right hand.

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On Sunday, Linda flashed a victory sign as she celebrated losing her halo. She now wears a short-term collar, which is not particularly confining and is, in fact, welcome since her neck muscles had not been used for seven weeks.

The halo was heavy and had been dreadfully uncomfortable as well as confining. Linda was so happy at having it gone that she called me on her cell phone from the ambulance bringing her back from Oakland to tell me the good news. I immediately emailed her the link to a YouTube music video of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which, as she later confirmed, reflected how she felt.

Without the medical halo, Linda can now raise herself up in bed and sit comfortably in a wheelchair for several hours at a time. Equally important to her, she can now wash her hair.

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Linda (photographed today) at last can move around in bed and expects to soon be able to get into a wheelchair on her own. As these pictures show, Linda made dramatic progress in just a week’s time.

Today Linda was transported back to Oakland where another doctor removed the cast from her right leg and replaced the cast on her left arm with a short brace.

She now looks forward to leaving the Rafael within two weeks and returning to West Marin. This is good. Linda and her family say that after her first two weeks in the convalescent hospital, which contracts with Kaiser, her stay has sometimes been unnecessarily unpleasant.

Indeed, Linda’s daughter Saskia van der Wal, a physician in Oakland, and her son David van der Wal, a social worker in San Francisco, have filed complaints about the convalescent hospital’s treatment of their mother.

I’ve received copies of their complaints, which are also addressed to the assistant director of nursing at the Rafael, Kaiser Permante’s continuing care coordinator in Marin County, a California Department of Public Health inspector, and a state ombudsman.

A key complaint is that the convalescent hospital a week ago threatened to evict Linda the next day unless it was immediately paid for a month’s stay in advance, Kaiser having said it would drop its hospitalization coverage until she was ready for more physical therapy.

“Today, July 29,” Saskia wrote the Rafael, “you have given us less than one day’s notice to pay a total of $7,140 for the period of July 24 to Aug. 24, 2009. She had Kaiser coverage until July 23 and has since applied for Medi-Cal.

“You have threatened that she will be removed from the facility tomorrow if we do not pay this amount today. We have not received anything in writing, documenting reasons for eviction or adequate discharge planning. This is illegal.

“I have spoken to the California State Ombudsman, and they have informed me of my mother’s rights. She must be given a 30-day eviction notice first of all, and secondly, you know she has Medi-Cal pending, which means if they do not back-pay your facility, only then will my mother be responsible for the amount owed.”

Linda’s son David in a separate complaint wrote that when first Saskia and later he called the Rafael’s director of admissions to question the convalescent hospital’s threatening to evict their mother, she hung up on each of them. In his complaint, David noted he then called the director of admission’s supervisor, Abe Jacob, assistant director of nursing, but “he simply cut me off and asked, ‘Where is the money?'”

Beyond that, David added, “while my mother has been at the Rafael, there have been numerous cases of neglect.” For example, he wrote, the surgeons who operated on Linda’s punctured lung closed the incision with staples.

The “staples were scheduled to be removed July 7,” David wrote, but medical staff at the Rafael neglected to do so until July 21. [By then, Linda told me at the time, some had become infected.] “My mother had complained of pain for several days under her right breast before any action was taken by medical staff,” he noted. “By the time the staples were removed, skin had grown over several staples.”

In addition, he noted, “my mother complained for several days of pain in her bladder. The only treatment my mom was offered was pain medication. My sister (an MD) suspected a urinary-tract infection, but it was not till almost a week passed that [Linda’s] catheter was removed and antibiotics were administered before the infection worsened.”

It’s no wonder Linda is so eager to go home. In the meantime, an inspector from the state Department of Public Health has been looking into these complaints against the Rafael Convalescent Hospital.

A pair of thieves in their late 20s or early 30s cleaned out the cash drawer of Point Reyes Gifts shortly before 3 p.m. today. The shop is relatively small, however, and owner Barbara McClellan told sheriff’s deputies the loss was not large.

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Shop owner Barbara McClellan told deputy Rick Johnson the couple used a ruse to distract her while the theft occurred.

Deputies said a woman, who was described as having shoulder-length brown hair and wearing a white t-shirt, asked Barbara about some clothing in the back of the shop. While Barbara attended to her, a man who was with the woman stayed in the front of the shop near the cash register, talking on a cell phone.

The man was wearing a baseball cap that may have said San Diego on it, Barbara told deputies. Eventually he ended his phone call and said his children were fighting and that he and the woman had to leave. Not long afterward, Barbara looked in the cash register and discovered all the folding money was gone.

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The theft brought numerous deputies to Point Reyes Station. They fanned out around town but without a description of the getaway car, officers were unable to find the couple.

Deputy Johnson tried dusting for fingerprints but unfortunately found only smudges.

Barbara is the daughter of the late Jack Mason, West Marin’s well-known historian. Her daughter Patty Collins is a former manager of the town’s bank and now works in East Marin.