Photo of Gov. Schwarzenegger and patient Sammie
The governor presents 11-year-old Sammie Bly with an autographed photo of the two of them when they met via a high-tech telemedicine connection. (Select photo for larger view of Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sammie.)

It's not everyday that UC Davis Medical Center patients can say California's governor stopped by their rooms just to say hello. But that's exactly what happened on the first day of November when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger paid an unannounced visit to nine of the hospital's pediatric intensive care patients.

The state's chief executive had met one of the young patients, 11-year-old Samantha “Sammie” Bly, the previous week during a videoconferencing, telemedicine demonstration between the medical center in Sacramento and a hotel conference room in San Francisco. After seeing and talking with the youngster through the high-tech communications link, the governor decided to follow things up with an in-person visit.

Donning a protective gown and gloves, the governor thrilled Sammie and her mother by appearing at her hospital room door bearing gifts. While the Redding youngster was unable to speak because of a breathing tube, she smiled continuously at Schwarzenegger's presence. The governor presented Sammie with a stuffed animal and an autographed photo taken during their video meeting.

“To have the governor visit was probably one of the best days of Sammie's life,” said Courtney Hochfeld, the youngster's nurse who made sure her patient's medical devices were safe and secure in what quickly became a rather crowded room when the governor appeared. “She was smiling the entire day. And her mom was so happy, too.”

Reprising his role from the telemedicine session in San Francisco, James Marcin, associate professor of pediatrics, was on hand to provide introductions for the governor and explain some of the state-of-the-art equipment used to the help the ill youngster. It included the telemedicine device used to connect with the San Francisco conference room, as well as another type of videoconferencing system, which uses regular phone lines rather than a broadband connection to establish visual and audio transmissions for family members living outside of Sacramento.

“The governor not only saw the care we provide our patients,” Marcin said, “but he also got to see some of the important services we offer that allow loved ones to provide much needed patient support even when they're hundreds of miles away.”

Marcin noted that telemedicine connections are an ideal way to provide remote and rural areas of the state with the specialized medical expertise typically found in big-city hospitals like UC Davis Medical Center.

Photo of Dr. Marcin and Gov. Schwarzenegger
Governor Schwarzenegger speaks at a UC Davis Pediatric Telehealth meeting in San Francisco, while James Marcin, UC Davis associate professor of pediatrics looks on. (Photo: Office of the Governor)

The governor spent about an hour in the pediatric area. Kourosh Parsapour, another UC Davis pediatric critical-care physician, explained each case as he guided the governor to see eight other young patients. For each child, Schwarzenegger handed out small gifts, took photos and offered words of encouragement.

“These are among the sickest, most vulnerable patients in the hospital,” said Parsapour. “But it's very clear that a visit from someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger truly brightened the day for some very deserving kids and their families. It was a thrill for all of us who work in this pediatric unit to see.”