In the latest Around Town column, news about the first baby of 2021 born at Stanford, a Palo Alto firefighter continuing his mission to raise awareness of suicides among first responders and a new housing project coming to the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
NEW YEAR'S BABY ... Stanford Children's Health welcomed seven babies on Jan. 1 — the first being Jalen Ramos, who entered the world at 1:53 a.m. Born at 5 pounds and 2 ounces, the newborn arrived earlier than Leigh Santiago and Andrew Ramos expected. The first-time parents checked in for an induction on Dec. 31 and Santiago was given medication that afternoon. Her contractions built up during the day and after a brief nap, woke up to her water breaking at 11 p.m. She was provided an epidural and moved to the delivery room where Jalen was born in less than five minutes. The family of three is doing well back at home in San Bruno. "We didn't expect the birth to go that fast. We expected him to come in the middle of the day on New Year's Day," Santiago said. "He has an excuse every year now to stay up until midnight with us."
IN TRIBUTE ...Palo Alto firefighter John Preston continued his mission to raise suicide prevention awareness among first responders and veterans this week. Preston, who supported the cause with a 625-mile walk last year from Palo Alto to San Diego, embarked on a 50-kilometer walk (roughly 31 miles) in the east bay this week. The 24-hour journey that began on Jan. 3 at 8:30 a.m. honored two emergency responders who died by suicide: Ed Smith III, a retired Alameda firefighter of over 30 years, and Eric Mikel, an Alameda County firefighter. Smith's son, Barney Smith, who had joined Preston for last year's trek, wanted to honor his late father on the anniversary of his death with a hike that spanned his regular work commute from Livermore to Alameda. When Barney Smith suffered a back injury and nearly canceled the hike, Preston and John Hanson, a friend of the younger Smith, decided to move forward with the journey that crossed along downtowns and well-traveled streets while carrying Smith and Mikel's fire helmets. They covered 22 miles in about 11 hours on the first day, meeting firefighters and Smith and Mikel's loved ones along the way. Crews also followed the route on their fire rigs. They spent the night in Castro Valley and continued their walk at 4 a.m. the next day. Despite some rain, the group made it to Alameda by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, ending the hike at Fire Station 4, where the elder Smith previously worked. "This gives people an opportunity to heal and heal in a way that they're getting the message out to help others. It was such a blessed day," said Preston, a Marine Corps veteran. The public can honor Smith and Mikel by doing their own 50K and logging their journey on sweattracker.com.
Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 1-855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-628-9454.
GIVING SHELTER ... The Veterans Palo Alto Health Care System ended 2020 on a high note. On top of administering the first COVID-19 vaccine doses in the region (thanks to specialized freezers it had to keep them at a stable temperature), it was one of 12 groups that will have a new Fisher House, a temporary housing site for families and caregivers of veterans and active duty members under the VA's care. "This is another great example of our commitment to the needs of our veterans and their families. We could not be prouder to be selected," VA Palo Alto Director Thomas Fitzgerald said in a Dec. 14 statement. The VA system currently has two Fisher Houses — one with 21 rooms and another with 20 rooms. The facility includse a common kitchen area, laundry machines and a living room that features a library and toys, according to a press release. The house also is handicapped-accessible and equipped with elevators. The homes built through the Fisher House Foundation were donated to the VA, which handles operation, maintenance, upkeep and staffing of the facilities. There's currently no timeline of when the VA Palo Alto's new Fisher House will be completed.