A Place of Healing and Warmth
“Good morning James, what can we do for you?” This is not the type of greeting that most patients arriving at a medical facility receive. Having a number of legitimate ailments, plus the fact I am somewhat of a hypochondriac, I go to several doctors, an occasional ER, and, for longer stays, hospitals. There is only one place where I am made to feel like family (sorry, Olive Garden), and that is what used to be known as Sleepy Hollow Medical Clinic, now known as Hoag Medical Group Laguna Beach on Ocean Avenue.
Sleepy Hollow was founded in 1991 by Dr. William Anderson, a local hero to so many of us in Laguna Beach. He was a flight surgeon and he believes that this proved to be a natural bridge to emergency care. More about him in a moment. I would like to mention first the people you will come in contact with before you see the doctors, because they deserve a hearty shout-out.
In all my years I have never come in contact with a more professional and caring group. Dressed in blue, they are my “Blue Angels.” Maria Lisek, site supervisor, has been there 25 years. Monica Zajac, medical assistant, a real short timer, has been there only 24 years. Then there are medical assistants Amy Bacon and Nikki Boehmer, who have served Sleepy Hollow for 13 and 11 years, respectively. Medical assistant Danielle Davidson is the new kid in town with two years of service.
A couple of years ago my home weight scale said I was getting fat. Rushing down to Sleepy Hollow, I asked Monica if I could use their scale to check my weight. She said, ”of course.” Try asking that favor without an appointment at your cardiologist or oncologist. Turns out, I was getting fat.
The doctors that staff this wonderful place follow Dr. Anderson’s belief that medicine should be practiced with a “human touch.” Since my wife and I moved to Laguna in 2001, this is exactly what we have experienced whether it be with Dr. Anderson himself, Dr. Wasbin, Dr. Moss, or nurse practitioner Mary Jean O’Connor. To them, you are a person with a health concern, not just what a laptop might say about you. The exams are done with thoroughness and often with a touch of humor. If they feel additional specialized care needs to be provided, they have a vast network of physicians they can easily recommend.
Dr. Anderson believes that having a facility like this one he founded provides an important service to our city. Unless you have a major injury, this is a great alternative to the ER where you could spend hours, and come out with quite a lengthy bill. And although appointments are now recommended, one can still walk in without one, and unless they are swamped, be seen in less than an hour. The “Blue Angels” do work their magic. And it should be noted that they are open seven days a week, with reduced hours on weekends.
A while ago, Dr. Anderson sold his practice and it is no longer Sleepy Hollow, but rather Hoag Medical Group Laguna Beach. He explained Hoag is buying similar clinics to his in surrounding Orange County cities in an attempt to provide outreach to these communities. There are more computers, more paperwork, but the staff is the same. They are a part of the beating heart of our town.
Dr. Anderson is in the office only three days a week now, but still swims in the ocean every day without a wetsuit. The day I talked to him, the water temperature was 57 degrees. Had I been dumped into an ocean that cold, my brain would scream “hypothermia!”
But I know just where I would go to get warm.
James Utt, Laguna resident and hypochondriac, hopes there will always be places like Sleepy Hollow. He also hopes you will read his new book “Laguna Tales and Boomer Wails” available at Laguna Beach Books and Bushards. Of course, it is also on Amazon.