She nearly died on my watch part 2
Yesterday I was telling you about how Suzan joined Ouch! and her involvement for over 21 years with our awesome products. Let me get back to the conversation she had with me on Wednesday. Goosebump stuff…
So I walked into her office early on Wednesday and greeted her. “Hello Masabata”, I said (It’s her Sotho name and it means lady that was born on the Sabbath). She turned around and greeted me politely like she always does.
We exchange pleasantries and then I asked her about her holiday and how she was doing. She tells me how grateful she has become of life and how she has so much joy with where she finds herself today. I realise from her body language I’ll have to sit down as this will take longer than usual.
I sit down on the wheeled chair next to her and the wheels squeak as I move closer. I ask her to tell me more about her obvious optimism and why she feels this way about the year ahead.
She tells me that she is so grateful for how her life was affected by so many great people in Ouch! and how Ouch! saved her life, twice. I sit intently listening and for a moment I am transported to a time 9 years ago when her days were not this bright.
To keep it short I will summarise the story (the details are sketchy in my mind, but I’ll try my best).
Suzan basically fell ill in 2011 and no one really noticed. After a while we saw that she was losing weight rapidly and that she was struggling to move around. I asked her about it and decided to take her to my doctor for a checkup.
I was not prepared for the outcome of that visit.
After some tests and discussions with her, he called me in and told me that she had a life-threatening blood disease and that she would no longer be able to work. He told me that the only thing left was for her to take medication to make what was left of her life more comfortable, but that there was not much else left to do.
It was a sad day for both of us, but I jumped into action to try and do the best I could for her. Or so I thought.
As we all do, I took the doctor’s word for gospel, arranged that Suzan could get her medication from the local clinic and told her that we would have to release her from her duties (but that we would support her as much as we can) as it was becoming dangerous for her health to work at Ouch!
I sent her home. *my eyes well up when I write this…
Months passed and it was at the beginning of 2013 that I asked one of her colleagues how she was doing. His name was Goodman (he passed away a couple of years later). He told me that she was in a bad state and that her condition had quickly deteriorated.
Something told me to visit her in the township. I asked Goodman to take me to her house.
When I got there I could not believe my eyes. She was frail and thin and looked really ill. I had tea with her and while sitting there I got this distinct pressing on my heart that this was not right. I could not leave her like this. She complained about having no energy and no meaning in life and that she felt very depressed.
I told her to come back to work. I thought the least I could do was offer her a job, meaning to exist, a place that she could at least interact with other people. I asked her to come back and do as much as she felt comfortable with. She was so happy and thanked me as we left (she tells me it was the first and only visit from colleagues to her home in the township – note to myself to do more of this).
In early 2013 she is back at work and I am traveling a lot. Someone at the branch decides to take her to another doctor. This doctor was different. He spent much more time with her and took a real interest in her health. He did more tests and found a solution. He gave a new medication (apparently her body had resistance for the ones she was using).
During this period Suzan also passed out at work one day and stopped breathing and most of our staff ran out of the office from shock. Niel our engineer (who passed away last year) resuscitated her back to consciousness. He saved her life. She recovered in hospital.
Within weeks of getting the new medication, she started feeling better. She gained weight and after a couple of months was her old self again.
8 years later she is in top shape. Healthy, almost turning 50 (and doesn’t look a day older than 35) with great plans for her future.
While she was telling the story I went through so many emotions. Sadness at how busy we get in business and how we miss the life-changing events that happen in the workplace right under our watch. Shocked at how close she was to death, twice. Humbled by the fact that I was prompted by The Higher Power to go to her house. Relieved that other people in our business stepped in when I wasn’t around. Angry at how easily the first doctor gave up on her, but grateful that she was alive.
I sat talking to her for 30 minutes about life, how good God is and how grateful we should all be for what we have and how we all need to stop focusing on what we don’t have. For someone who nearly lost her life twice at work, work became a blessing from God. Something to be honored and appreciated and cared for. Something to be taken seriously. A gift.
If it wasn’t for Suzan’s workplace, she would not have been here today. She realises that all these people were put in her life for a purpose and she was living that purpose day by day.
She told me, “Kevin, if you never increase my salary for the rest of my life, I will still work here and thank God every day for my job”. My eyes teared up as I sat there amazed at this lady’s humility and appreciation for her work and life.
I stood up, hugged her tightly and told her I appreciated her and walked out of her office.
I thought I had come to the branch for a client, to greet our staff. But that was not the objective. I was taken to Bloemfontein at the beginning of 2020 to remind me what Ouch! was really about and what really mattered in life.
Every goal and vision that I have for Ouch! pales in the face of what I saw happen to Suzan over the past 21 years. If that is the power of collaboration and the union of people, I want more of it.
It shifted my thoughts completely about how I will approach this year. As business owners and managers, we have a responsibility to take a deep interest in our people, to care for them, to help them excel and make something of their lives. It has everlasting value and more meaning than any material wealth we could attain.
I am first to admit that I have not done enough. I have at times let the worries and pressures of business blind me for what is really important and I am going into 2020 with a resolve to do more.
We are blessed to be a blessing. It is the only reason for business. And it’s why I started this madness.