Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Policy Pulse (1st Edition): What Our Government is Doing to Help Our Families

People are worried about healthcare; some don't want to have to give their tax dollars up to help others with it; some need to know, despite there being a cut in things like social security in the future, that healthcare won't suffer from similar doom and gloom. This is America, after all, isn't it? some say. There is always hope! HOPE: another one of those four letter words, like LIVE and LOVE, that encompass so many things; ideas, feelings, emotions, definitions, and actions and that we don't look to enough for answers. There are beacons of light out there...promise. Read on...

This update came from the following:[capwiz:queue_id]

"U.S. House Approves Hospice Rate Protections

Progress in halting the implementation of the hospice rate cuts was made today when the U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the economic stimulus package being debated on Capitol Hill this week.

The House package includes a one-year moratorium on a Medicare reimbursement rate cut through elimination of the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF). As the hospice community knows firsthand, this regulatory rate cut threatens access to compassionate, high quality end of life care and jeopardizes the survival of many hospice programs, especially smaller ones.

The NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) works with the public to ensure that the seriously and terminally ill receive quality care. "

For more information and to educate yourself on what this and the stimulus plan really means for facilities like us and the people we serve, please visit the National Assocation for Healthcare and Hospice website and the New York Times

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Much Does Our Community Give Back? A LOT!

Even in touch economic times, it doesn't take much to get a bunch of friends together for a friendly game of poker or a night of bowling. This is just what two out of the many groups in our community (San Francisco Bay Area) are doing for non-profits like GMCH. Our friends at Active Charity ( made sure we took advantage of any straight flushes and donated proceeds from their poker tournament to GMCH. This guys night in wasn't only about chips and dips. Another group created the HOFE Bowling Fundraiser, offering a chance for friends to hit the lanes and donate to GMCH. Their awesome video of the evening here also offers a chance for others interested in the concept to submit their ideas and get together to make another fun-draiser happen.

We are so lucky to have such strong support in and the creative idea's keep on coming. Whether you want to hold a private ice-skating show in your backyard in Wisconsin for charity or run a marathon in the Napa Valley in the name of an ill friend or relative, make your own rules and follow your own path, pick something that can be fun, and that you can do over and over. These actions put the needs of others into perspective and only help our communities and our country learn about what "checks and balances" really means.

Monday, January 26, 2009

George Mark Children's House - FAQ's

When one tours GMCH, one learns and becomes more engaged with what we do for our kids and their families than one would have learned online or from just speaking with someone. There is no other place where visits from therapy animals, pizza tossing and cupcake decorating or hydrotherapy might help to aid in pain management more so than pain medication itself. Also, the physical structure of the House makes one feel at home, as if they are walking down the hall to their kitchen, sitting at the fireplace and drinking hot chocolate (or whatever other goodies Chef Barbara Sardella and staff have prepared) with a close friend.

Helping our kids with their health conditions that they endure day in and day out is complicated; not just for obvious emotional and psychological reasons, but in terms of understanding what illness a child has, how they can be treated, etc. It seems to be a reoccuring them on those medical tv shows that "doctor's" always have to put their theories, diagnosis', etc., into "Lehmann's terms" for their patients. What in the world does "sarcoma" mean? Or "histiocytocytosis?" What is "Absolute Neutrophil Count" or "Anterior Mediastinotomy?" A doctor would probably tell you these were all very basic concepts, procedures...or whatever. For a place like GMCH, there are words we can leave to the professionals to know definitions for, and there are words that everyone should kno the definitions for, and understand, in lieu of what we do for our kids and what sets us apart from other pediatric medical facilities. Here are just a few definitions:

Palliative Care (from Latin palliare, to cloak) is any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, rather than striving to halt, delay or reverse progression of the disease itself or provide a cure. The goal is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve quality of life for people facing serious, complex illness. For more information, please visit ( Dr. Jan Pankey, our Associate Medical Director, joined GMCH following the completion of a pediatric palliative care fellowship. Her professional interests are pediatric pain and symptom management and cultural diversity in end-of-life settings.

A Child Life Specialist focuses on the psychosocial development of children, and encourages effective coping strategies for children and their families under stress.[4] Child life specialists recognize individuality in patients, and use a range of developmentally appropriate activities, including play, preparation for a medical procedure, education, self-expression, and family support to help cope with hospitalization, illness, or death and dying.[5] Child life specialists are trained to take into account the cognitive, emotional, and physical development of each child in order to encourage optimum development of children facing a challenging experience, particularly in relation to healthcare and hospitalization. GMCH is so lucky to have an in-house Child Life Specialist, Rebecca Simonistch, who facilitates legacy building for families, sibling support, special trips and events, and weekly programming.

Hydrotherapy involves the use of water for soothing pains and treating diseases. The use of water to treat rheumatic diseases has a long history. Today, hydrotherapy is used to treat musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or spinal cord injuries and in patients suffering burns, spasticity, stroke or paralysis. It is also used to treat orthopedic and neurological conditions and to improve fitness. This term was probably pretty obvious, but it's effects aren't quite so to someone new to GMCH. When you are floating in water, you are weightless, and for some of our kids, weightlessness is the best feeling they have had in years...and might ever have. GMCH's Hydroptherapist Sheila Pyatt works with our children to lessen their aches and pains and is very passionate about the positive effects that this kind of therapy has on pain management.

Such terminology explains the kinds of programs we have at GMCH. These programs are what make GMCH so different from a hospital or larger medical institution, along with the people who personalize these extraordinary service for each child and family.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wine By Design to Benefit GMCH

The San Francisco Design Center will host gala-goers at this wine auction event, including wines, dinner and dancing. Guests will enjoy meandering throughout the elegant SFDC 4th floor galleria while sampling local vineyard wines and sumptuous food pairings. The auction will consist of wine only and there is no need to purchase a ticket. The event is open to the public.

Proceeds from the wine auction will benefit George Mark Children's House, to which we graciously thank the SFDC and it's supporters and staff. We thank the greater Bay Area for their support outside of East Bay. Please visit for more details. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Computer Corner: Giving Doesn't Need to be Expensive...

Even though people are cutting down on their spending doesn't mean priorities shouldn't still shift further - to spending more money on what really matters, and what will give back to those in serious need. Before you buy those new shoes, that happen to be on sale 500%, or even that more expensive bottle of shampoo that you usually buy, think about how far $5 could go when given to an organization that provides homeless with fresh nutritious food, or donating it in more creative ways. It has been said, in the most recent past, that a dollar does not stretch as far as it used to (meaning a dollar in 2004 does not stretch as far as it did in 1935). Time to switch that mantra! A dollar DOES go as far TODAY as it did in 1935, especially now that sales are going out of control and clothing stores, houseware stores and car dealerships are practically giving away their products. More importantly, creative people with creative idea's and resources are coming up with ways to let the public know about how easy it is to be creative (and generous) with that dollar - and stretch it for good! has some great ideas on how to give $5 to impact a charity in need, or (even better on the budget) how to give 5 minutes of your time. And for you iphone junkies who can't get enough of those crazy downloads and applications (I just saw the Star Wars light sword one - so awesome, and so hysterical!), there are now ways to donate money through your application purchases...and more and more non-profit organizations are developing their own iphone applications to keep supporters engaged and having fun while thinking about and supporting their favorite charity! For more detailed information on the subject, Have Fun Do Good is a great resource. Just some things to think about when you are fighting Darth Vadar and saving the Universe...from your office cubicle.

-Happy Computer Corner

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Volunteer Now!

There are so many opportunities in the Bay Area, in and around San Francisco, Berkeley, the North Bay, South Bay, etc., to help in your local food kitchen, mentor a child/young adult or volunteer with kids that might not be as lucky to be as healthy as your own. Here are a few references, in and around the Bay Area, that could help you find the best fit for sharing your time with others (if GMCH is not your first choice, which (duh!) it should be): - a great site that lists hundreds of opportunities that need 1 hour of your time or a year of your time. Busy schedules call for flexible opportunities...and you can find them here. - they manage 120 direct-service projects a month and offer educational programming to help volunteers become well-informed community leaders. - they create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering - so make some new friends while helping your community! After each volunteer event - which typically lasts only 3 to 4 hours - volunteers are invited to gather at a local restaurant or café where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting. - serving San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, they foster strong networks among nonprofit, public, and business sector organizations and ordinary citizens, united by the overarching goal of improving local communities. What could be better than that tag line?

More to come...!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama says yes to serve it up!

Yesterday, we watched as an almost official President Obama painted the insides of a homeless shelter, and as he did so, asked many people in the press (who were blinding his efforts to paint with camera flashes), "What are you doing on this Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday to serve our country and your community?" To which one of the photographers replied, "Following you around taking photos," or something of that nature. The President just shook his head in disappointment. Wouldn't it have been great if one of us GMCH supporters had been in the crowd of people and had jumped up, with glee, to suggest volunteering time for a good cause with us? And then asked President Obama if he wanted a tour of the House, lunch with our families and to come to Autumn Celebration next year? Ahhhh, yes - brings new meaning to the word "hope" that he was talking about today...!

Of course, GMCH doesn't just get you in and out. It is a bit more involved, but more rewarding than that photographer would have ever probably imagined. After all; this House is Life.

For more information about volunteering at GMCH, please visit