Al and Pam Degen



Sometimes, life can change in an instant.

For Al and Pam Degen, it changed in a moment – and eight days. The moment came when the couple, recent transplants from the desert community of La Quinta who had lived in their Pauma Valley home for less than a year, picked up the phone to call Valley Center physician Dr. Roy Johnson.

Al was feeling ill and Dr. Johnson was the only local doctor they knew. He told the anxious couple to meet him at Palomar Medical Center where Al spent the next eight days.

“He was in the ICU, he had pneumonia,” said Pam, as she recounted the frightening incident. “He was moved to three different floors for three different levels of care. But the care and attention was just superb.”

Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Dennis Leahy was also brought in, said Al.

“I felt like I had the best medical team available anywhere,” he said. “Between Dr. Leahy and Dr. Johnson, we felt very comfortable with our medical care.”

Now back at home with their three dogs, Fritz, Billie, and Kona, the Degens encourage their neighbors to get involved with the construction of the new Palomar Medical Center Escondido by taking a tour and seeing how the hospital of the future is taking shape.

The 360-bed hospital, which will open in 2012, combines the latest medical technology and advances in patient care within a healing environment of gardens, terraces and outdoor balconies. The new facility will also provide expanded trauma and emergency services, heart surgery, neurosurgery and vascular services. One of the most striking features of the hospital is the 1.5 acre green roof and terrace above the surgery, cardiology and interventional radiology suites.

“The tour will really make you a believer,” said Al. “You’ll be impressed with so many things. I think the idea of the roof garden is terrific. When you have something living and growing like that, it’s very peaceful.”

The Degens decided to show their support by contributing to the Palomar Pomerado Health Foundation Charitable Gift Annuity Program, which provides them with a guaranteed income for life as well as a tax deduction. Because of their generosity, the PPH Foundation will name the 4th floor east terrace in their honor.

Al’s recent hospital stay gave the Degens a first-hand look at Palomar Health’s exceptional level of care – and it gave them a new insight into the caring and support of their new neighbors.

 “This is really a very warm and welcoming community,” says Pam. “When Al was recovering, people would just come by and leave meals for us and we never even knew who did that. It’s made us feel like a real part of the community.”

Al has returned to the golf course and Pam continues to compete in triathlons, and both enjoy keeping Fritz, Billie and Kona happy. And letting their friends know that even in rural Pauma Valley, the best medical help is close at hand.

  • Palomar Medical Center Escondido


    2185 Citracado Parkway

    Escondido, CA 92029





  • Palomar Medical Center Poway


    15615 Pomerado Road

    Poway, CA 92064