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The Two Men Hadn’t Spoken In 20 Years. What Happened When They Ended Up In Same Room Surprised Us all

May 12, 2014

Call the family.

It’s that bad?

She’s in a medical induced coma. Every time we bring her out the strokes start. We’re running out of things to try.

My cousin, in her 40’s was younger than me. The day before she’d been out snowboarding in “The Greatest Snow On Earth” in Utah’s mountains. It was one of her passions and she’d been doing it for years. She’d count down the days until the resorts opened each fall.

On this day she’d been boarding for several hours when she downed a 5-hour energy drink. She’d had them often and never with any unexpected effects. Today was different. Shortly after the first one she drank a second one, and a few minutes later had a massive stroke, the first of many. Her friends notified Ski Patrol immediately.

Ski Patrol quickly got her off the mountain and to the University of Utah medical center. The doctors were able to stabilize her by putting her into a light coma. The strokes stopped. Every time they tried to bring her out of the coma, the micro-strokes would start again. The capillaries at the base of her brain would spasm. When they closed she’d have another stroke.

My aunt and I have grown close over the years. She called me to let me know that my cousin was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to make it. I made the short trip from Pleasant Grove to Salt Lake City.

She also called her son and her ex-husband, my uncle. My cousin started driving in from North Dakota and my uncle drove down from Coeur d’Alene, ID. We weren’t sure what to expect. Physically both were big men, 6’4″. Both had worked in physical jobs that meant that they were also very strong. And they couldn’t stand each other. The dislike was so intense that they hadn’t spoken in 20 years.

How many of your company policies are built around personalities? While I worked at WordPerfect, Pete Peterson, the Executive Vice President ran every aspect of the company. I was a support engineer and I needed a new computer because mine burnt up. Pete had to personally approve my department buying me a new computer. Why did everything run through Pete’s office? Because he insisted and no one wanted to cross him.

In fact, when the founders finally decided to reform the company, they summoned Pete to a meeting and started off by saying,

This is an official meeting of the board of directors of WordPerfect Corporation.

They felt the need to shroud their conversations in legal-speak. Incidentally, my success with the EPA account indirectly lead to Pete being asked to leave. (How I Saved the EPA. Don’t Tell Pete!)

Speaking of the EPA, the administrator, Bernadette had a reputation as someone that no one wanted to work with, but certainly someone that no one wanted to cross. She was very demanding. However, I discovered that once we got into the same room, it was much easier to understand her demands. She wasn’t attempting to be difficult. She simply needed to run a 30,000 user email system and didn’t have time for pointless questions.

We got along great.

My current position also requires me to work with a very demanding administrator from our client. She reminds me a lot of Bernadette. People, both at my company and at hers are kind of afraid of her. They are very hesitant to say or do anything that might be viewed as crossing her. But, like my experience with Bernadette, I found that once we got into the same room, our goals are actually very similar. She and I both want our systems to run smoothly.

We get along great.

It’s that recognition that we have common goals and common interests that lets us move past personalities and focus on the bigger goals.

I saw a similar experience with my uncle and my cousin. The initial meeting was strained. Both were still hurt by events in the distant past. However, a common love for my other cousin let them set aside their differences. And then a funny thing happened.

They started to talk. And as they talked they realized that neither of them remembered what had caused the rift so many years ago. In many ways it was obviously a happy discovery. However, it was also twinged with sadness. My cousin had married and had children. Grandchildren who had never had a chance to meet their grandfather. Years of pointless isolation were wasted.

After a few hours, my uncle and his son were thick as thieves. Both still obviously worried about my cousin. But, happy to be reunited.

And then the miracle occurred. The doctors tried an experimental unproven technique. (When the patient is terminal, nothing is too extreme to at least try.) They used a technique to deliver drugs directly to her brain stem. They then slowly brought her out of her coma. . .and the capillaries didn’t spasm. She was going to live. And better than that, she eventually recovered fully.

She works as a rigger in the arenas in Salt Lake City. She climbs into the rafters and sets up speakers and lights hundreds of feet above the arena floor. We are naturally grateful for her recovery, but also grateful that her near death experience brought her family back together. My uncle has already made trips to North Dakota to get to know his grandkids.

My cousin is back to snowboarding.

But, she NEVER drinks energy drinks.

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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