I’m Not Scared; I’m Pissed
- by: Hank Berkowitz
- March 15, 2020
The events of the past two weeks reminded me of a story.
One day last fall I went in for my annual physical. The longtime family doctor we loved had recently retired. He sold his practice to a huge medical conglomerate. Let’s call it Medical, Inc. As you can imagine, the level of care and time spent with patients is quite a bit less at Medical, Inc. than it is at a small family practice. You’re no longer a person; you’re just a patient DOB and a case number.
Long story short, a very inexperienced technician botched my standard electrocardiogram test (not once but twice). Her errors caused in an apparent “blip” on my EKG chart, which panicked my new 30-something doctor into thinking I had a heart arrhythmia. Again, he didn’t know me very well.
Next thing you know, the door to the examining room is locked. I’m forced to swallow aspirin tablets. Local cops and EMTs are rushing me into an ambulance while a small crowd of onlookers in the parking lot is trying to see who the poor sap in the gurney is. Pretty humiliating.
Does any of this sound familiar?
As some of you know, I’m a national class triathlete and distance runner in my age group. I have no history of heart disease or cardiovascular illness. My ticker’s just fine and I had just done a hilly 25-mile bike ride that morning before coming in for my physical.
The more I pleaded my case, the more belligerent the emergency workers got: “Mr. Berkowitz. Do you understand what’s happening? If you don’t get in the ambulance right now, we’re going to have to sedate you.”
Finally, it hit me: Holy crap. I’m in the system and I can’t get out!
“Okay, fine. I’ll play along” I told myself. ”I can’t believe this is happening to me,” I thought as we whizzed down a major state highway, blowing through red lights to get to the hospital emergency room.
I tried not to think about my half-eaten bagel, briefcase and computer still sitting in my car outside the medical center. I tried not to worry about my wife working out of town that week or my teenage son who’d be expecting me to pick him up at school in an hour. I wasn’t allowed to call anyone.
To be honest, I was mostly panicking about the big fat bill I was likely to get for the unexpected ambulance ride. I tried not to think about all the client meetings that would have to be cancelled that day (and the lost revenue).
You can’t fight the riptide
I’ve learned one thing from all those rough-water ocean swims–you can’t fight the riptide. You have to let the riptide take you where it wants to go and trust that it will eventually deposit you onshore. You might end up half a mile down the beach from where you started; but at least you’ll be on dry land none the worse for the wear.
Same goes for the Covid-19 virus and all the residual panic it has triggered. I know the virus is for real. I know there’s no known cure. I know our government and disease control experts F’d up their chance to do early testing and detection. I know the media and financial markets are pouring more gasoline on the panic fire. But, we’ll get through this crisis just like we got through the Global Financial Crisis, 9/11, Y2K, AIDS, SARS, Ebola and every other catastrophe we’ve faced in recent decades. These Black Swan crises seem to come every 10 years or so, and we’ll surely have another one before the end of this decade.
Here’s the thing.
As long as human beings have the will to live and as long as businesses want to make money, we’ll get back to some semblance of normalcy in our lives sooner rather than later. You can’t fight those natural forces any more than you can hold back the ocean. You have to relax, go with the flow and learn to adapt.
In my next post, I’ll share some really great insights about disaster recovery and resilience from my friends Dr. Tom Hedberg of the International Medical Crisis Response Alliance (IMCRA) and Josh Patrick, founder of Stage2 Partners and host of the Sustainable Business podcast.
Back to my ordeal
After 36 frustrating hours in the hospital emergency room, I was finally whisked to a comfy private room and told to rest up for my all-important “treadmill test.” Having completed 20 marathons, 50 triathlons and eight 24-hour running relays, I wasn’t too concerned about walking 20 minutes on a treadmill. But when you have dozens of people checking your vital signs every 15 minutes with concerned looks on their faces and when they keep asking are you sure you’re up to this, you start to doubt yourself and wonder if maybe there really is something wrong with you.
Own your fears
Same thing happens when you’re glued to the news and the doomsday stock market bulletins all day long. You start to question all the foundations and stability in your life. DON’T DO IT!
Down in the bowels of the hospital, they have armies of technicians, banks of treadmills and lots of high-tech equipment to monitor your vital signs. You get your torso shaved, drink some electrolytes and start walking on the treadmill up a slight grade. Well, 45 minutes into the test, I’m hardly breaking a sweat and the pulse monitor’s barely elevated. Just like in the back of the ambulance, I cursed under my breath: “What a waste of resources!”
Finally, the head cardiologist walks in with an annoyed look on his face. He takes a look at my chart and snarls at the technicians: “Jesus Christ! What are we doing here, people? Obviously, this man’s an athlete. Get him out of here and start treating some sick people.”
Just remember, stocks are still up over 450 percent from the end of the global financial crisis, 11 years ago this week. Let’s take a healthy pause, get ourselves re-centered and get back to work and school ASAP so we can get on with our lives.
We’re all in this together and we’re only as strong as our weakest link. Let’s put aside our petty differences and help each other out so we can get back to normal.
That’s how we beat the terrorists after 9/11. That’s how we’ll beat Covid-19.
# Covid-19 #stock market #Tom Hedberg #IMCRA #Josh Patrick #Sustainable Business