There can't be many nurses who start to work at Kaiser's Santa Rosa Medical Center when they're quite new to the profession yet aged almost 60.
Even fewer, no doubt, go into nursing in part because of the quality of the care they received when they were bed-ridden and nearly blind at that facility, and fearful that the happy, productive, independent part of their lives might be over.
David Hobler is a rare sort of nurse.
He had worked quite contentedly as an environmental engineer for 25 years when his world went whacky early one morning in August of 2006.
He'd traveled from his home in Santa Rosa to Phoenix for yet another long, on-the-road assignment that involved assisting firms with the software programs that produce hazardous-materials reports required by government agencies.
At about 3:30 a.m., he got up to use the bathroom. He was wondering why the room was even darker than usual when he fell on his face.
Alarmed, he picked himself up and did what any sensible person would do. He phoned his mother.
Alice Hobler Turbiville, then a retired nurse living in South Dakota, where her son grew up, told him it was most likely a problem with his blood sugar. "She said to crawl to the kitchen and drink some orange juice," he recalled.
He complied, but upon arising from bed a second time found that his vision was still impaired and so was his ability to control his left leg and arm. This time, he telephoned an advice nurse at Kaiser in Santa Rosa.
He recited the symptoms and she responded at once, "Get to the emergency room."
Hobler called a taxi for the short ride to a Phoenix hospital. He said the staffers who received him thought he was drunk and suggested he go home.
They re-evaluated that advice when his left leg buckled and he collapsed.
Staffers who admitted Hobler found that he'd suffered a stroke and an MRI discovered an unwelcome surprise — lesions on his brain.
Additional tests convinced doctors the lesions resulted from a rare bacteria and Hobler was started on massive doses of penicillin to kill the bacteria.
After more than a week in the Phoenix hospital, he was loaded into a small medical-transfer airplane for a flight to Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center.
"I distinctly remember thinking, 'I survived a stroke and now I'm going to die in a plane crash,' " he said.
Over the next month at the Kaiser hospital the lesions healed and he worked to regain the full use of his left leg and arm.
But his vision remained seriously damaged. Hobler said the lesions impacted the optic nerves and led to damage of the retinas.
A series of four eye surgeries and the process of recovering from the stroke pretty much derailed Hobler's life for two years. In 2008 he was feeling physically able to return to work, but found the stroke had cleared away much of the memory he would need to go back to engineering.
What else might he do? He knew his mother, Alice, had found great satisfaction in nursing, and he recalled how deeply impressed he'd been by the nurses at the Kaiser hospital in Santa Rosa — two of them in particular.
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