Of ERs and Men…
WARNING: Strong language follows… If it offends, just skip this. Reality is that sometimes it's appropriate and called for.
If you’re a Member, you’ll know I missed getting two of my weekly Memos out in a row. If you’re a daily email subscriber, you know my daily emails mysteriously stopped on Wednesday, March 6th. In fact you might also know that I had a webinar scheduled for that same day that was cancelled.
Today, I’m revealing why and what happened to me that has and will forever change my world.
This blog post serves two purposes... In this very long blog post, there are several lessons for you – teachings that jump from the value of a mastermind, to health to a book suggestion, and so on. There is also an overriding theme I have no doubt you'll pick up on. Please, pay close attention. Let's get started. I think you'll truly get something bigger than any lesson, truth, reality, strategy, tactic, hack, etc. that I've EVER shared in my two-plus decades in the "game" of business...
I was recently in Phoenix from Wednesday the 27th of Feb to March 3rd – attending a mastermind meeting and seeing my parents over the weekend. The weather was fantastic, and I even traveled down to Tucson to the Saguaro National Park. Pretty cool place if you ever get down there.
This trip, in hindsight, was different. I wasn’t feeling on top of my game. Might’ve been a cold or flu (turns out it was Influenza A). Could’ve been travel (I don’t travel well for work/business). Could’ve been general stress. I wasn’t sure exactly.
The good news was my mastermind meeting was productive. I had my proverbial arse handed to me by my friends who were quick to point out some of my flawed thinking. It was rough, but necessary. And, their comments provided some much-needed clarity.
When I got back to the airport on Sunday, I was browsing through a book store and found a title that caught my attention, “How to Unfuck Yourself.” I bought it, thinking that if the mastermind was good for that, this book ought to just cement the message. I had it read completely before I landed in Portland a few hours later.
I arrived home Sunday evening. Monday, March 4th was a rough day. Didn’t feel like I was getting much done or feeling too well. I was, in a single word, tired. And, I could tell that whatever I caught on the flight down to Phoenix was probably a cold, at least.
It was rough sleeping Monday night. Every hour I woke up, dizzily looked at the clock and drifted back to sleep. 5am came. I’d been getting up a lot at 5am and writing. But, I was too dizzy to get out of bed and instead, slept until 5:50 when I arose, kicked my feet over the edge of the bed, and could barely focus on the clock. I knew I had to get up, get my shower and take my daughter to school about 25 minutes away, in town. Except, my head and shoulders felt like there was a tremendous weight on them. To top it off, I felt like I was completely shitfaced – something foreign to my body for a decade or more. I staggered to the bathroom and turned on the hot water. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t decide what or if it was important enough to tell my wife.
I opened the shower door and got in then got back out to turn off the sink water. Then, got back in the shower. I spun around a few times trying to decide what was happening. I was more dizzy now. The weight was tremendous. The hot water was hitting me in the face and I thought I should yell for my wife, but I couldn’t get my mouth to move. It started to get dark, the weight on my body increased and I reached for the water handle to turn it off and sat down on the bench in the shower.
…that’s the last I remember for several minutes.
My wife heard my head hit the shower door and then the floor of the shower. According to her, I was out. She yelled at me and tried to get me to respond.
She ran and got my daughters. My oldest, Mady, who was due to move in just a day or two day into her new apartment, called 911 and executed orders from my wife. My youngest did the same.
My wife came back in, I was sitting up apparently, Indian style, on the bottom of the shower. And then I passed out again.
Somehow, they got me to move from the shower (where my wife so kindly put my boxers on) to the bed and laid me down. I remember bits and pieces of this. 20 or 30 minutes later, the EMTs arrived. My heart rate was 20 or so bpm and my blood pressure was in the tank. I was dizzy. Nauseous. The weight of the world crushing me into the bed.
Everything went black. Literally. BLACK.
And, not once, but twice. In and out of consciousness as my heart struggled to pump blood to my brain. But, there wasn’t enough pressure. My brain, in its effort of self-preservation just turned out the lights.
I regained consciousness. And, was completely and unexplainedly emotional. I sobbed. Apologized. Cried. And, thanked God all at the same time, that for some miracle I was still breathing, albeit not too well.
I recall the EMTs rolling me over onto a black, heavy, rubber-like sling. Then, seconds later, (I think) with my daughter Mady holding up the lower left part of the sling where my left leg laid helplessly, she along with the three EMTs, hoisted me up out of the “forever bed” my wife and I bought a few years ago (we joked when we bought it that since it was so expensive and had its own articulation mechanisms, that we could move right into assisted living with it) and began to navigate their way through the house to the idling, flashing lights of the ambulance.
As I was being moved from the bedroom down the hall to the stretcher, it dawned on me: I’d never seen the ceiling from that angle before – flat on my back. I’d never been hauled nor did I ever envision myself being hauled through the garage, around our cars, and out the garage door, flat on my back. They sat me on the stretcher. Two EMTs in the back of the ambulance and me. My daughter in front with the EMT driver, Erick.
My wife and two girls - the three of them were so brave. So strong. So encouraging. As I write this, I’m having a hard time seeing through the tears. It’s so incredibly powerful reliving this right now – just 8 days after it happened. So emotional. A week ago, no way in hell would I have shared such deep and personal emotions. Now, today, it seems like the only way to start to heal and just get it out of my system. And, I have this incredibly comfortable feeling of “Go ahead and judge me and see if I give two shits…cuz, frankly, I don’t.”
The drive to the hospital 30 minutes away was a blur. Weird. Surreal. Like I was watching someone else go through this and it wasn’t me. I know the road so well after driving it for over 18 years that I knew where we were at, how fast the ambulance was going and when I might arrive.
In and out of a weird fog, I remember my daughter kept asking me, “Daddy, are you doing ok?” I kept saying, “Yes, honey, thank you. I’m going to be ok.” But the truth is, I had no idea. I had no way of knowing. I just knew that I had to tell her that and I had to believe it. So I kept saying it. Mind over matter. I can win this. I am not weak. I will not perish inside some damn ambulance…
Behind the ambulance, my wife and youngest, Lynia, trooped on. They had no idea if I was alive or dead. They just blindly followed Erich (the literal first responder) as he drove from our home out in the vineyards and Christmas tree farms to downtown Salem and the hospital.
The EMTs were in constant contact with the hospital. Stephanie and Megan. They gave my vitals several times: “47-year old male, bradycardic, 20 bpm, bp 85/50, in and out of consciousness… IV started…”
I was damn sure it wasn’t me they were talking about…or was it? Not a chance. After all, I walk every day. I exercise on a FROM machine, the first of its kind (full range of motion), I eat fairly well. I drink 3 to 5 glasses of wine a week at most. I’m active. And I thought…I thought I felt good.
The next thing I remember was being wheeled into the hospital. And, a swarm of nurses and doctors at attention along with my newfound friends and lifesaving EMTs barking orders and citing stats.
They stabilized me, hooked me up to all sorts of monitors and watched.
I was tired, scared, and emotional as heck. I knew what had happened but couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t been to the ER since I was a little kid. Heck, the craziest thing I’d had done to me was a hernia surgery a few years back.
Yet, here I was. “Mr. Tough Guy.” In the ER. I’d passed out in the shower (don’t take hot showers is the lesson here). And now, facing all sorts of uncertainty.
As soon as I got my wits about me and the ER doctor told me I had an electrical issue with my heart, I reached out to my best friend, Tom…because, in a word, I knew I was FUCKED. And, I knew Tom would be able to give me some perspective, and he was close to the ER.
Tom’s a stud. He and my dad are great friends, too. They’ve both been through a lot together, but separately. He and Tom are experts in all things hospital. And, he’s no doubt on about life #15 or so. So, I reached out:
Tom’s a man you can count on. He’s of that generation and a rare man indeed. In 15 minutes, he was at the ER right by my side. He began coaching me, my wife and girls on what would very likely happen over the next several hours and days.
You see, he’d been through it. He’d blazed the path and helped me make sense of it all.
When you have people around you who’ve been through what you’re going through, they can prepare you physically, mentally, and emotionally to tackle it – to quite literally handle whatever is going to come at you. I can’t tell you the amount of comfort in that.
Just like a coach. An Advisor. We all need them in every aspect of our lives – personal, business and health. And, boy, did I need my dad and Tom’s experience now.
After an hour or so giving me and my wife and kids some comfort for what was about to happen, Tom went home.
It wasn’t long after that when my nurse came in and said the on-call cardiologist would be in to talk to me. When she gave me his name, my skin crawled. His reputation had preceded him. Tom had had a bad experience with him. So had my dad. So had others I knew. And, the word had spread. There was no way in hell I’d allow him to cut me open. Heck, I didn’t even want to be in the same room with Dr. Death.
A half-hour or so later, he arrived, introduced himself. I asked him two or three very pointed questions to which he could not look me in the eyes and directly answer.
Quickly annoyed and grumpy with him, I sent him away and my nurse reappeared. I said, “Don’t allow him in my room again. He won’t be doing anything to me. Please see when Drs. Saha or Krishnamurthi can see me.”
By now, I was getting hungry but they wouldn’t let me eat since I might have surgery any time. If you know me, I don’t miss too many meals unless I have to. Although, oddly, for the past few weeks, I’d been doing intermittent fasting for 16 or so hours here and there. It’s not difficult if you don’t eat after 5pm and not again until lunch the following day.
A few hours later, I was moved to a room on the 6th floor. Nichole, one of my RNs, greeted me. She was amazing and very nice. Knowing how crappy their job can be, I did my best to maintain my sense of humor. Between her, Amy, my evening RN and the CNA, Desiree, I was incredibly well-cared for and even doted over.
A few hours later, Dr. Saha, whom I’d met once before while trying to determine the extent of my daughter, Mady’s heart issues. We’d not had a good first encounter. In spite of that, I respected his guts, confidence and no-nonsense approach.
And, he gave it to me straight. I asked, “Saha, what are my options?”
“You have two: live a long time and enjoy your family, or, not.”
“OK, so I need that pacemaker is what you’re saying in no uncertain terms?”
“OK, let’s get it on the books. Can we do it now?”
“I can get it done today. There are two ahead of you and then we’ll get it done. Any other questions?”
“Nope. Thank you. Let’s get it done. I’ve got a lot of work to do and this hospital room rent ain’t cheap.”
[Note here about presenting/selling treatment…whether it’s a pacemaker or a filling. Urgency and reason(s) why are crucial… Saha didn’t mince words. He knew how to literally help me visualize the hearse backing up to my front door instead of the ambulance that did. Are you using urgency with your patients? Afraid of being over-aggressive? If you knew the backstory on this heart episode I had, you’d know that I wish they HAD been more aggressive with me!]
After my surgery, for which I was fully-awake for and was very quick – an hour and 45 minutes from room to room, as I lay there in my $20,000+ per night hospital/hotel room surrounded by what my wife called, “supermodel nurses,” I kept playing the scenes of the past few hours and days over and over.
I couldn’t help but think had this happened in Arizona or on the plane or wherever else, there was a very, very real chance I might not have made it.
It would have stressed and maybe injured my mom and dad.
I might not have seen my youngest graduate 7th grade, let alone high school or college or med school, or my oldest daughter sell her first house (She just did literally the day after I was released from the hospital – here’s a pic of her and the buyer – kind of an ugly guy, eh? But, heck, at least his heart works now!).
Or see either of them get married and have families of their own. Or hold a grandchild. Or, ever kiss my wife and kids or my parents again. Or, smell something sweet. See that sunset at my home. Look up at the stars. Enjoy a glass of wine with a friend or loved one. Ride my 4-wheeler. See the ocean. The desert. Hold my daughters’ hands. Enjoy a walk around my incredibly beautiful neighborhood full of oak trees, Douglas fir, elk, deer, coyotes. Or, breath in the sweet, salty air of Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. Or shoot guns and fish with my best bud, Tom. Or drive through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge on my way to Wenatchee to see my brother, his wife and my niece, Hailley (a champion downhill skier at Montana State). Or, spend time with my mom, Connie and dad, Dennis, showing them just how proud they should be of their kid and grand kids and daughter-in-law.
And I gotta say... I love the team here at JJD. Every single one of them. They're just flat-out amazing people I would do anything for: Brandi. Sissel. Kevin. Nicole. Erin. Chris S. Chris W. Gary. Mark. Jade. Lisa. Kyle. Tiffany. Lori. Steve. And, the folks at Select Impressions and Gotcha Local. (If I left anyone out, please forgive me.) They all pulled together and made my time off tolerable and I felt 100% confident in their ability to do the right thing and keep our Members going full bore.
You know…when it all comes crashing down – your health – not a damn thing we believe matters, really matters. Nothing. I'll be blunt: All I’ve thought of every day since are my kids and my wife, my parents, my brother and his family, my friends who’d move heaven and earth for me… THESE are the only things that matter. Not money. Not wealth. Not the weather. Not the cars I drive, the businesses I own or my home. It’s the Big 3: Faith. Family. And, Friends. Not a damn thing means more to me than those. Nor should they to you.
As you can imagine, I’ve developed a new take on life. On business. On my days and what they look like. And what my future will look like. How much of my day I’ll spend on business and how much I’ll spend on my family and friends and my faith. And, how little time the things that DO NOT matter will get from me. How I’ll handle stress. Bad news. Good news. And more. You might notice that while I was direct before, I’ll be even more so. You see, there’s just not time to waste. Not a single minute.
They released me from the hospital on Thursday. I spent Friday relaxing and didn’t do a heckuva lot on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, my daughter moved out and simultaneously cashed her first check as a Realtor®. (And, paid Dad back for a few things. Ha!)
I’m now in recovery mode. I drove my daughter for the first time since Monday of last week to school today. I’m incredibly grateful for the speedy recovery I’ve had (Basic Tylenol is all I’ve required and an antibiotic). I’m 47 years old. I am in excellent health overall, but now equipped with a pacemaker that’ll be with me in some version until my last days here. (It even has its own App on my iPhone! And, my new iWatch4 even has an ECG monitor along with heart rate monitor!)
I feel incredible. Energetic. My vision is sharper than before. My hearing is better. My ability to smell is better. My senses are heightened. I’m typing faster. Nearly everything I can think of about myself is better.
I don’t think I’ll ever, and for good reason, forget how scared I was. Nor will I forget what got me through this last week. And it wasn’t work.
It was the Big 3.
FAITH. FAMILY. FRIENDS.
I’m working to lower my work load and stress. I’m re-evaluating what I need to do, where I need to be or don’t need to be involved. What’s important and what is not.
Of note that I was not ready for – my senses are no longer "dulled. I’d notice while in Arizona that my vision wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. In fact, I thought I’d best make an appointment with the optometrist when I got home. Today, it’s back. Sharp. My hearing, more enhanced than in the past months (I woke up to coyotes calling outside my window last night). My wife even asked me a couple nights ago, “Are your eyes more sensitive and are you more sensitive to smells?” Oh yeah. Big time.
So, this experience, while harrowing, has had benefits. It’s the yin and yang I suppose.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR YOU? In a single, very simple thought: Let my event be one you consider for yourself. I don’t wish it on anyone. This or anything more extreme.
Travel for business is off my calendar permanently. The only reason I’ll ever get on a plane again will be for pleasure. And, that’s going to be some time before that happens. And certainly not the 737 Max 8 or whatever that’s called.
One thing that hit me as I was in the ER…lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, wondering what in the hell had just happened…If I had my dental office still, not a beat would have been lost. In fact, they’d probably not even known about me being in the ER or in surgery until I showed up to tell them a week later and show ‘em my scar.
By the way, THAT IS a real business. It’s not a job. THAT was a business. Just like JJD. It’s a business that will run with or without me.
That is my wish for you…to have a business that supports YOU, and most importantly, runs without your direct involvement as the main shareholder.
My friend, your practice exists not to just give you a job or identity, but to provide an income and some level of certainty and security for you and your family in the event you end up as I did.
And, I sure hope and pray you do not.
Instead, I hope you recognize the value in what I share here and give it consideration for yourself and your future, whether you’re 35, 45, 55, 65 or 75 or 85.
After all, it’s never too late, until it is.
Jerry “Titanium Ticker” Jones
I can take a beating and keep on ticking…
PS. Bluntly, it’s time for you to get your shit together. To get your business in order. To get that associate hired, to spend time with your loved ones, to create a practice that has the ability to support you whether you’re there or not.
YOU deserve that peace of mind. Your family deserves that piece of mind.
If you’re ready …reach out. I know a thing or two about this business.