My Adventure Among the Adventists (1967)

In early July 1967, the Loma Linda University Medical Center was opened and in order to give the Medical Corp of the U.S. army some practice in handling patients who were not ambulatory, the opportunity was given to the army to do the removal of the sick from the existing hospital no more than a quarter of a mile away on a hilltop, to the new site.

The removal was done in a very satisfactory manner, and it was at this point that my association with this Adventist body began. I would therefore like to go into some detail with reference to the six plus years I spent working for this organization.

I have always referred to Loma Linda as an Adventist oriented city. Actually, it is, I am reliably told, the largest single nucleus of Adventism in the U.S.A. and, as a consequence, in the world.  From a very modest start, the movement grew steadily until now it is so well entrenched that the names "Loma Linda" and Adventism are almost synonymous. The most dominant feature of this little city is its Medical Center - The Loma Linda Medical Center. It dominates the skyline for miles around, and is a veritable landmark when motoring along the San Bernardino & Riverside freeways, from which it is approached by an off-ramp. A very unique and extremely modern building, it has hospital bed accommodation for over five hundred patients.

I joined the staff of the new Loma Linda hospital pharmacy from its inception in July 1967 at the age of 61 years, and worked there continuously as a pharmacy technician until I resigned well over six years later. At this point I wish to say, categorically, that those were the finest working years of all my life, and what better way to end a working life of full activity, than in doing work with which T was completely familiar, and in an environment so conducive to happiness and peace of mind. Let me here offer a brief description of the medical centre.

Before the building was opened for use, groups of new employees, - and there were over 5,000 of us there when I resigned in 1973 - would be taken in batches of 30 - 40 each day by a personnel man, and given an orientation tour of the whole institution, including its functions.

Suppose I try to recall the tour which I had when I was oriented….The entire structure of the medical centre was set well back from the roads on which it stood, by several hundred yards, the building was in the centre of immense lawns and parking facilities, all beautifully landscaped. Full grown palm trees, 109 - 150 feet tall were brought in and planted in clusters of threes. The wide stretches of lawns were all beautifully manicured, and the main approach was via a dual carriageway, in the centre of which was an ornate fountain spilling spray into a concrete rectangular pool, which illuminated at night, took on a variety of shimmering colours.

Looking at the magnificent structure from the outside, one end of it was in the shape of a clover-leaf tower all the way up to the 10th level. The rest of the building could be compared to two huge rectangles, shaped roughly like an L, which adjoined the clover-leaf tower. In the tower section were housed the beds for the hospital patients, as we were later told by our guide. On the ground floor the all-glass sliding doors were fully automatic, and as you enter into the spacious foyer, there is an aura of peace, comfort and elegance all blended together.

There is a little Chapel on the ground floor, a receptionist's department, and admission desks, and as you pass along the thickly carpeted and softly lighted roan there are self-operated elevators to take you up to the topmost level. Part of this ground floor contains the business offices, and the meeting rooms of the top brass, as well as the private offices of the executive staff of the University.  Across the corridor on this level also is a magnificent cafeteria, the outstanding feature of which is the fact that the meals prepared and served there are all of the vegetarian type.

The dining room extends from the cafeteria, and is beautifully designed. There is an automatic tray & dish removal service of the continuous belt variety which removes empty trays and crockery, carrying them into the dish-washing room, where they are taken care of by a large automatic dishwasher. The kitchen and dietary department adjoin the cafeteria on its other side, and there is an impressive display of stainless steel equipment, and kitchen employees preparing the menu for the day. In place of beef and other animal meats, a lot of soy and nuts are used, and many preparations are perfected to resemble and taste like beef, ham, coffee, etc. Many of these goodies are truly delightful, but for some, the average meat-eater has to acquire a taste for this type of food before he can really become a true devotee.

In defence of vegetarianism, however, there is the certain knowledge that having a very low cholesterol content, one is less likely to succumb to such diseases as obesity and hypertension, not to mention cardiac problems and carcinoma.

At the far end of this floor are doctors offices where out-patients receive attention. Before going up to the second floor, we were taken to the two lower levels (basements) designated "A" level and "B" level.  On the "A" level is the Emergency Department which, on account of the sloping nature of the ground on which the medical centre is located, has its own entrance via Campus Street and Anderson Street at ground level. This is a highly modern and sophisticated branch of the hospital complex, and is fully staffed on a 24-hour basis.

On this "A" level also is located the physical therapy department, embracing all the various impedimenta required such as exercise apparatus, whirlpool tank, a miniature swimming pool etc.

There is an occupational therapy room close by as well.  At the top end of this level are various doctor's offices, research laboratories, experimental rooms, and a sizeable amphitheatre in which lectures are given and various meetings conducted in the course of instructions to medical students and nurses during their training period.

The store-rooms are also situated on this level as well as a messenger service. Going down to the second basement, the "B" level, on the one side is a modern telephone exchange, bigger than the one which serves the city of Loma Linda, which just proves the impact of the medical centre upon the population in this area.

Adjacent to the telephone exchange is the maintenance department, which takes care of the building and repair work, such as painting, plumbing etc. It is complete with workshops of every kind. Another portion of this level is allocated to the Radiation Therapy department, an ultra modern and very special branch of medical technology, complete with a Betatron apparatus.  The laundry is at the far end of this "B" level, and it takes care of all hospital linen, uniforms, etc. The air pressure in the laundry is lower than that in the rest of the building, thus ensuring that no germs, smell
or other effluvia will permeate from it to the rest of the building.

Chutes from each of the nursing units on the floors above can disgorge soiled linen etc., done up in plastic bags, directly into the laundry.  A very modern data processing room is located on this level, too, and here are processed the IBM cards dealing with the patient's record, the fortnightly wages statements, etc. etc., and all other necessary work for which this department is so ideally suited.

The furnace which burns all trash etc. is on this level too, and here again, chutes from every floor above provide a quick and easy way to dispose of unwanted trash. There is also an animal care facility on this level.

The second floor houses doctor's offices, examination rooms, the pharmacy, the X-ray department, the clinical laboratory, the central service department and the surgical suites comprising several operating theatres, and a recovery room.

There are also several laboratories and instruction rooms and libraries at one end of this floor, as well as a number of areas in which investigational work is conducted. In contrast to the laundry on the lowest level, the air pressure in the operating rooms of the surgical suites is higher than in the rest of the building, which makes it unlikely for outside air to seep into this portion of the institution.
Employed as I was in the hospital pharmacy, I will go into a little more detail with regards the arrangement of this department.

The entrance to the pharmacy was via a "Dutch Door", that is, a door in two sections, the top half of which was usually wide open, while the bottom half was kept locked. An electronic device with remote control well inside the pharmacy regulated the opening of this lower half, and there was a buzzer attached to the door on the outside. This was considered a necessary precaution to keep out unauthorized persons.

Double-sided shelving along ten to twelve aisles provided adequate storage for stock which was systematically arranged in representative groups all alphabetically laid out. Compared to my previous experience in England where a lot of time was wasted just finding small items like pills and tiny packages, this arrangement was definitely much superior.

Whereas I was used to writing labels by hand, here all labels had to be typed, and the typewriter carriages all had some form of accommodation, such as a flexible clip to hold the labels. Dispensing scales and balances were of the electronic type, and a high degree of accuracy was obtained using them. There were photo-electric pill and tablet counters which really took the drudgery out of this phase of pharmacy.

Low and pleasant music was provided all day throughout the entire medical centre and in this respect the pharmacy went even further, having its own radio receiver and extension speakers, so that the music could be enjoyed anywhere in this department. There was also a colour television set, and often it was possible to view important events as they occurred live.

The general appearance and furniture of the pharmacy was very pleasant and comfortable, and by virtue of being air-conditioned at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and carpeted wall to wall, (as was the entire building), it was delightfully quiet and peaceful.

The system of dispatching medications, and receiving orders for them is by very modern and sophisticated means. Actually, there are two methods of sending supplies from the pharmacy to almost anywhere in the medical centre. One is by the "tube" method, which is a vacuum system connected to several parts of the institution and which was ideal for sending small vials of medications and proper information to the several departments concerned. This vacuum tube system embraced seventy two different stations (such as the pharmacy) where tubes can be sent and received.
Essentially the system is a computerized control affair. When a tube - which is about 16 inches long with a three inch diameter - is sent from the pharmacy it goes down to the "B" level of the building where the heart of the system is. There it crosses a sorting belt where the machine remembers Which station this tube is heading for, and shunts it to one of approximately seven main lines. The tube continues along one of these main lines and is then switched to another line, depending on where it is going. If by chance the line is plugged or not unloaded, the machine holds it just before the sorting belt portion, and then sends it to a reject station if the problem at the original terminal does not clear up right away. The amazing thing about this whole operation is that there are many different tubes whizzing through the system at the same time and the computer is able to remember to switch each one at the correct time. The tubes are moved through the system by vacuum, and the elapsed time from sending to receiving is completed in a matter of seconds.

The other system was a strictly mechanical one, and was represented by a lift of the conveyor belt type.  It consisted of projecting arms, each set capable of holding a plastic tub of rectangular shape approximately 36 x 24 x 12 inches each. The operation looked somewhat like an escalator reaching from the ground level to the ninth floor in continuous motion. There is a memory bank connected with this apparatus also, and by pressing the required button, one could send these tubs to any of the nine floors in either direction up or down. According to the button pressed, the moving belt would disgorge its tub at the receiving point by means of a slight incline into the receiving area. This tub conveyor saved a lot of labour, and was very handy especially for supplying heavy articles to the various units (wards) on the top floors.

Towards the end of my connection with the medical centre, an ultra-modern I.V. room was installed adjacent to the pharmacy. This was in pursuit of the advanced policy of giving medications intravenously rather than orally, or by the injection method. This method of providing medication was a great advance on the older types especially in the case of stomach, intestinal or colon problems. By adding nutriments to the I.V. solutions, it was thus possible to rest the entire alimentary tract, enabling more complete repair and work to be performed on such cases without any resultant weakening of the patient. Certainly this was the most modern and up to date pharmacy I had ever worked in, and I was very happy to have ended my working years in an environment such as this.

The far end of this second floor contained the surgeon's offices and the Urology department. The general public had full access to all doctor's offices in the centre and from the crowds always present, it was obvious they made full use of the services offered.

In the clover-leaf tower starting from the third and going up to the ninth floor, could be found the five hundred odd beds for hospital patients, and each floor of beds was identical to the other. The way the patients rooms were arranged was very unique. They were all placed around the periphery of the towers, and the nurses stations occupied the centre of the area. Thus it was possible for every room to be in full view of the staff and prompt attention was easily and quickly available as a result of this well-planned setting.

The view from the picture windows of the rooms was of the undulating hills in Loma Linda, and further on, of the lofty mountains of San Bernardino and the Gorgonia mountains. On a clear day it was possible to see Mount Baldy in the distance. The picture windows were so made that they revolved, so it was possible to clean the outside by just pivoting them around from the inside. We were told that the walls of the building contained an 18 inch thickness of Styrofoam as insulation,and since the area stood on the famous "San Andreas" earth-quake fault, the building had to be constructed to resist tremors of a high Richter scale rating.

The medical center catered for all types of illnesses, and during my tenure there, it was my privilege to see such sights as live organs for transplanting, kidney dialysis in progress, a brain scan set-up, a skin transplant on an anaesthetized dog, and many other unusual sights.

On the flat roof of the building between the sixth and seventh floor there was a helicopter landing pad, and it was a thrilling sight to see rescue work being done when injured people would be flown in to the center from outlying places like the mountains when accidents occur.

Each of the floors on which there were beds (third to ninth) had a visitors and. patients lounge, complete with television set in each. One could not only meet patients there, but patients of the more ambulatory type could also relax in them. There was also a sort of open air balcony on each which overlooked the free-way and the mountains beyond, and the view from the more elevated floors, looking down, was very impressive. At night, in the myriad of twinkling lights from the city of San Bernardino, the appearance was somewhat like fairyland.

Apart from the University Medical Center, which also turned out hundreds of physicians each year, (our son Gordon was one of them, class of 1963), there was a large dental school, and a nurses training centre on the Loma Linda Campus. There was some accommodation for students in male and female dormitories, Linda Hall being for nurse trainees and Daniels Hall for males.

On the campus also was a modern library, an anatomy museum and a very beautiful church, in addition to an older church on the hill where the old hospital stood. There was also a third Seventh Day Adventist church at Azure Hills on Barton Road, and the Adventists owned and operated a large supermarket and health-food shop, a drug and variety store, and a good bookshop on Anderson Street.

The La Sierra College is now affiliated with Loma Linda University, and this was the route that our son, Gordon took going through his pre-medical at La Sierra for four years, and climaxing his studies at L.L.U. for another four years, followed by a years internship at the latter.

The University had its own security police, humorously referred to by some as "Vegecops" due no doubt to the fact that Adventists are mainly vegetarians. These security guards were not only held responsible for the safety of the vast spread of property covering several acres, but were also kept quite busy looking after the control of heavy traffic caused by the number of cars, motorcycles and bicycles, used in the course of conveying thousands of employees, students, patients and visitors each day.

My son, Gordon and his family were all Adventists, and the hospital in Peru, to which he was appointed medical director, was called Clinics Stahl. This, too, was an Adventist hospital, and it was situated in the town of Iquitos, with a population of about sixty thousand people. It was located on an arm of the upper Amazon river, and stood on the edge of the jungle. He spent three years there, and during that time Emma and I lived in his Cottage Street home. During my stay in Loma Linda, several attempts were made to encourage us to join the Adventist faith, but as Presbyterians of long standing, we decided to remain as such. To be honest, I really admired their views as regards health habits: no alcohol, no smoking, little, if any, meat, a lot of exercise, etc. But I considered their attitude towards healthy activities like dancing, the ballet, going for a swim on a Saturday, (it was all right to go for a walk on this day however), or looking at television, even the newscasts, on a Saturday as over-Puritanical, and for me unacceptable.

Another contradiction I could not agree with was their division of days. They acknowledge the legal day as beginning from just after midnight to midnight the following day except in the case of Saturday, their accepted Sabbath. For them this day commenced at sundown on Friday, and ended at sunset on Saturday, so that in a country of several time zones like the U.S.A., there was a wide variety in the beginning and ending of Sabbath days. I really could not reconcile this attitude of this group of people, who unquestionably were usually a very intelligent lot. To me, it savoured of bigotry.

Adventists have selected the fourth commandment as the basis of their faith, and working among this group for more than six years, it was clear that many of them completely disregarded other commandments such as those dealing with "stealing", "coveting", and "honouring father and mother". They surround themselves with an aura of infallibility in respect of biblical matters, to such an extent, that I have listened, in their churches, to sermons which "cut down" other religious denominations, particularly Roman Catholics.

I have also heard eminent Adventists refer to the Pope of Rome as a person with the mark of the beast (666) by cleverly using the words which were formerly inscribed on his mitre: "Vicarious Filii Dei", adding their numerical sum to total 666 e.g.
V = 5
I = 1
C = 100
A = -
R = -
I = 1
V = 5
S = -
F = -
I = 1
L = 50
I = 1
I = 1
D = 500
E = -
I = 1
Total = 666
In my view, this was a purely "Procrustean" arrangement of leaving out the letters which had no numerical value, this "fitting the sleeper to the size of the bed, by lopping off his legs or part thereof". My, for example did not the author of this "explanation" linking the inscription on the Pope's mitre with the mark of the beast, why did he not choose to designate the value of 1 - 26, -(a-= 1, b = 2, c = 3 etc.) for the 26 letters of the alphabet, which would certainly have produced a completely different total. I sometimes wonder if this "explanation" of "Vicarious Filii Dei" could not be construed as petty, childish or even libellous.

After listening to a lot of tapes sent to me by Gordon from Georgia featuring J.R. Hoffmann, as the speaker, an impartial observer cannot help thinking that just as Rome once dominated the ecclesiastical world of its day, so now, in our time, Adventism is making an all out effort to establish a solid foothold in this particular and all important field. As I record this observation, I have just finished listening to one of Hoffmann's tapes in which he certainly adopts what I can only describe as scare tactics. The name of this particular tape was "When One Can No Longer Buy or Sell", and he states categorically that ours could be the last generation on earth before it is reduced to a cinder.

On a previous tape by the same speaker, he stated that prophecy indicated that the next world war, World War Three, would be in July, of 1975 and since as I record this, it is April of 1,976, I find it difficult to believe any more of Hoffmann's prophecies. He seems to be a modern counterpart of Miller, who erroneously foretold the end of the world and the second coming of Christ in 1844. In yet another tape recording, Hoffmann explains that Miller was not an Adventist, thus making it clear that Adventists were not responsible for this incorrect prediction in the 19th century.

In spite of this difference of opinion, however, we made a number of delightful friends in the Adventist community. How can we ever forget the kindness, the great charm, and all the wonderful help provided to us both, after Gordon had left for Peru, and we were alone in a strange land, thousands of miles away from our nearest relative. Friends like Svein & Milly Nilsen, Bill and Ardis Beckner, Howard and Fern Smith, Lois Ritchie, Don Schlinkert, and many, many more will stand out as shining examples of this religious group.

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