Welcome to the Hotel CPMC

As many of you know, Andrea and I recently spent 8 straight days (Thursday last week – this past Friday) at the hospital.  CPMC in Pacific Heights, to be exact.  It was an unexpected setback, but we made it home in one piece and are getting back to normal.  You can read all of the details on Andrea’s blog.

In truth, there was nothing fun about the experience.  It was stressful, uncomfortable and scary.  Something I never want to do again.  Now that the experience is over, though….I wanted to share a few of my fond, funny memories of our stay.  Because in the face of cancer, humor can be a really important ally.  And if you can’t laugh at this…

Without further ado:  here are my Top 10 Pro Tips for surviving and thriving through 8 days and nights at Club CPMC.  Like Bear Grylls in the wilderness, I learned these hard earned survival lessons first hand in the field.  Hopefully they’ll be of use to you, if you’re ever in the same situation.

Tip #1.  Bring Lots of Personal Care Products.  If you’re accustomed to staying at places like the W, or even the Holiday Inn, you’ll probably find that hospital soaps and shampoos are a couple (or 50) notches down from what you’re used to.  An easy way around this is to bring your own supplies.  Here’s a photo of our bathroom in the first room where we stayed.  A closely related tip is that if your wife happens to have recentlyundergone chemo and lost all of her hair as a result – you don’t need to bring her favorite shampoos from home as a pick me up.  In fact, I recommend you do not do this.  I don’t really know what I was thinking…but on my first run back home, I grabbed a handful of Andrea’s shampoos and proudly brought them back to her….garnering me a “WTF” glare upon their unpacking.  Ooops.


Tip #2.  Stockpile the Ensure.  You never know when you’re going to need it.  The nurses (inexplicably) brought Andrea 4 Chocolate Ensures every day.  One can only drink so many of these things, so we ended up stashing the leftovers in this drawer (along with some Thin Mints).  For the zombie apocolypse?  In case the hospital magically ran out of Ensure?  I don’t know why.  Moving on.


Tip #3.  Find the Blanket Warmer.  Staying warm during your stay is key.  And this thing is genius.  It’s basically a small oven where the nurses store blankets at a constant 128 degrees.  Sort of like a wine fridge, but warm instead of cold…and for blankets instead of wine.  You get the idea.  When you’re feeling a little chill, you can just grab one, and it’s toasty warm.  Like a Mrs. Fields cookie.  Amazing.  It’s a legitimate 5 star amenity that the Ritz should seriously consider adopting.  Where do I get one of these for the house?IMG_1320

Tip #4.  Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em.  The doctors wanted to test Andrea’s lungs – so they gave her this weird, mechanical peace pipe thing to induce her to produce more phlegm.  More phlegm is basically the opposite of what most people want….so this contraption was not our friend.  Why is this a tip?  It’s not – I just liked this video and wanted to get it in here somehow.  Check it out: 

Tip #5.  Repeat After Me:  “Service Animal”.  If you’re hospitalized for an extended period, you’re going to really miss your pet.  Fortunately, there’s always a way to smuggle them in for a quick visit.  The key is to pass your dog, cat, bird, off as a “service animal”.  What does this mean?  I have no idea, and neither do most hospital security guards.  Our awesome dog walker Valerie got Lucy up into our room for a quick visit using this ruse.IMG_1352

Tip #6.  More Visitors = Awesome Presents.  Trust me, you’re going to go a little stir crazy – so the more visitors you can get, the better.  They lift your spirits and sometimes bring awesome gifts too.  Like magazines:IMG_1335

and Richard Gere Rom Coms:


The best gift of all, though, came from Andrea’s mom, who sent me this vintage 1996 glamor shot of Andrea, via text message.  Why?…Why not?!


Tip #7.  Your Air Mattress is Your Friend.  Hospitals are not typically known for their cozy guest accommodations.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get an uncomfortable cot…or worse.  I was able to find this old Aero Bed in our storage room on my first run home.  I slept all 8 nights on it…and it wasn’t that bad.  If you have one of these – it’s a life saver.  (Hm.  that actually sounded like a real, helpful tip….)


Tip #8.  FREE CRANBERRY JUICE!!!!?!?!  Pace Yourself.  There’s a lot of free stuff at the hospital.  Blankets, towels, painkillers, gauze pads, the aforementioned Ensure…Our first room was directly across the hall from the juice machine which dispensed a magical array of 4 juices (apple, orange, cranberry and lemonade) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  For free.  It was like something out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  I sampled all the flavors on our first day and fell in love with the cranberry…before long I mastered the ratio of water/juice and was pounding juices down like Hurricanes at Mardi Gras.  They were sooo good.  By day 5, I never wanted to see, smell or taste cranberry juice again.  Damn you free juice machine!


Tip #9.  Don’t Forget the Cameras.  If you’re going to be hospitalized for 8 days, you have to appreciate that there’s going to be a LOT of blogging, facebooking, texting, updating going on.  Many of these updates will involve pictures, so your family and friends can see that you’re alright.  An amateur may succumb to the (understandable) temptation to let their appearance go.  The pro-patient, however, is always prepared to look her best.  The next candid could be right around the corner.  I snapped this photo of Andrea applying some makeup, I believe on Day 1…in the emergency room.  Putting on lipstick, in between medical consultations.  You have to love it.


Tip #10.  Improvise.  The accommodations are tiny and the longer your stay, the more stuff you’ll need.  One of the challenges is finding an efficient way to charge all your devices, store dirty laundry, hide contraband (Ensure).  For example – we constructed this handy coffee table (which we called the “credenza”), out of the box for my air mattress.  Charging station on top…storage for laundry inside.  And quite attractive too, don’t you think?  You can find it in next summer’s IKEA catalog.   It will also be made of cardboard, but be called by an unpronounceable Swedish name and require all day to assemble.


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General Counsel @ Automattic




love your blog,humor and endurance.your photographs are touching.Andrea it was heartbreaking to see the pained expression on your face.i wish i can take all your pain
up ,up and away. Paul, thank you for everything.

like your humour and endurance.Andrea ,i wish i could make your pain go up ,up and away. Paul, thank you for being you. i replied on the comments on the blog but messed up so it won’t show.too old to learn new tricks!!


I SO love this post!!!!! Having had a somewhat similar experience with hospitals, I very much admire your resourcefulness in dealing with the indignities of illness:)

service animal also works on airline flights .found that out from a psychiatry resident who flew with her dog .don’t know if a doc’s letter was required.they also got bulk head seats.

Love your take on the marathon you just ran! The two of you have been, and are, amazingly strong … LOVE is powerful!

I can so relate to all this having just finished a two week stay in hospital… You have to “nest,,,”… Toiletries are very important.. At least you can smell nice!,,,

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