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Sometimes It Really Is Life Or Death

April 22, 2014

Aaron was a light sleeper. It was a result of fibromyalgia, a condition he had developed several years earlier as the result of a high fever. He had to monitor his activity level very carefully. That’s hard enough when you are an adult, but when you are a 13 year old boy on a snow campout it’s especially difficult.

Aaron made sure that he didn’t over exert himself building the snowcave he was sharing with his brother and his friend Carson. He did everything right. He changed his clothes before getting in his sleeping bag. He put on clean dry socks. He put his clothes for the next day in the bottom of his bag. He made sure his bag was on a ledge with a slight slope and resting firmly on his insulated pad.

And then he climbed in and worked on getting warm. His body started to relax and his sleeping bag was soon a toasty warm. He’d been asleep for an hour or so when he woke up to the sounds of Carson moving around.

Carson hadn’t taken the same precautions Aaron had. His sleeping bag was in the bottom of the snow cave where the water collected. It got soaked and he got wet, an uncomfortable experience in a summer camp. A potentially deadly one in a winter camp.

Are you okay, Carson?


Carson was on his way out of the snowcave with nothing but soaked pajamas and no socks or shoes.

Aaron didn’t even think about it. He knew that Carson had been too quiet to wake anyone else up. It was only because he was such a light sleeper that Aaron woke up. He quickly got his boots on, grabbed his coat and left his warm, dry bed to follow his disoriented friend out into the snow.

It was clear that Carson didn’t have a plan. He was simply wandering around in his barefeet. Hypothermia was fogging his brain, and frostbite was setting in making his feet numb.

Come on Carson, let’s go find one of the leaders.

He allowed Aaron to guide him to cave where the leaders were sound asleep. They rushed Carson home where his anxious parents gradually warmed his feet and plied him with hot chocolate and blankets.

Carson’s feet peeled, but he had no lasting damage. Aaron went back to bed that night, but later was recognized by Carson’s family for the role he played in literally saving the life of his friend.

In business we don’t often have life and death decisions. Sure, some do. Those maintaining hospital systems, or 911 emergency systems can have a direct impact on life and death. But for most of us, no one is going to die if we mess up a report. We are not going to save someone’s life if we get our project done a week early.

These aspects of business are important, of course. Just because it’s not life and death doesn’t mean it’s not important.

But, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that life savers come in all shapes and sizes, and we never know when we go to bed at night if we will have the chance to literally save someone from dying. I’m grateful that Aaron was prepared, and didn’t decide that Carson’s welfare was someone else’s responsibility.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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