from the heart- part 2


heart_logoTo aid in understanding the enormity of my medical ordeal I should diverge into a brief history of the events that led up to my hospitalization. I had worked in the seismic services contract industry for over twenty years, the last ten in executive management. While I was certainly a workaholic in the earlier years of my career I had eventually realized that family and friends were more important than work. I had successfully changed my work attitude to reflect that belief and was enjoying a period in my life with a much lower stress level than before.To read part 1 of “from the heart” first go here

My career would be classified as a very successful one by anyone who followed it (basically my family and I) and three years before my heart problem I accepted the position as a Division Manager for the second largest company in my field. This company is headquartered in Paris and my hiring was historical as the first non-French executive at this level the firm had ever hired.I plunged into this position with gusto as it represented a big challenge on so many levels. I was an outsider as far as the other senior managers were concerned and I would have to prove myself quickly. The US division of this company was experiencing the lowest employee morale I’ve ever seen, the annual revenues were incredibly low for such a large company, and several of the major clients had stopped working with the firm due to bad past experiences.To summarize the next three years I met every challenge thrown my way. The division’s annual revenues increased 102%, employees began to really enjoy their jobs, and we won back every single client that had been lost before. It took a lot of hard work and solid motivation of a very talented staff but we exceeded everyone’s expectations. I was invited to meet and dine with the CEO numerous times to discuss our success in the US and how it could be duplicated elsewhere in the world, as the firm had almost 100 offices throughout the world.Things just couldn’t be better. In June of 2001 I received the best employee appraisal of my entire career. We were moving and shaking, and all in the right direction. On July 9 I chaired an internal meeting preparing for a meeting with Royal Dutch Shell, then the largest oil company in the world. This meeting went well and when it was over I heard my name paged by the Executive VP’s secretary. She asked me to come to his office for a brief meeting when I was free. Walking into his office I knew something was wrong. This man that I had come to know so well was as nervous as I’d ever seen him, and the HR Manager was at his conference table.He read his statement from a handwritten piece of paper: “James, I regret I must inform you that your position at the company has been made redundant, and we have to lay you off as of today.” The HR Mgr. was crying and she just kept saying over and over “I hate this job, I just hate this job. This makes no sense.” I was given an hour to gather my things and leave. And I did, totally in shock. Later, I came to realize that I was brought in as the fix it man, and was replaced by two French managers. But while driving home that day there was no sense to be made of things.My employability was not good- the industry was in a slump and at my level there were few jobs. I spent the next few months looking for opportunities and networking like crazy. I even considered going independent. The weeks stretched into months and financially it was getting critical for me to find something soon. After six months of unemployment I finally was offered a position and accepted it.The night before I was to start the new job was a quiet one in our house as our three children were all staying with friends and Sheri and I just watched TV and talked, just chilled. We breathed a collective sigh of relief that starting tomorrow things could return to normal. As we sat quietly I began to feel a shortness of breathe I’d never felt before. Not one to complain about my health I figured it would pass and I didn’t say anything. Over the next couple of hours it got worse and worse to the point I was very concerned. I remember the look on Sheri’s face when I told her I was having trouble breathing and I thought she’d better take me to the emergency room. Her face was instantly panicked for she knows me so well and for me to ask to go to the emergency room then something was very, very wrong. If we only knew…..

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