Yesterday, I had the pleasure to re-visit our Signature of Buckhead Post Acute Center, which is a real miracle to witness.
It seems like yesterday (it has been six years, actually) when we were launching Signature HealthCARE and acquired this troubled facility that was the laughing stock of Atlanta. Under the prior operator, the place was falling down, vendors were unpaid by the millions, and drug deals were taking place in the parking lot.
I felt overwhelmed, and it really took some blind faith to know where to start. Sometimes you have to believe and if you and your team are bold, your board and lenders support the crazy idea, and your discernment gives you peace of mind, then you pull the trigger. And it may end up your best deal because no one else saw it.
I really had little to do with creating the miracle, but the stakeholders to thank could fill this entire blog. People like Loretta, Andy, Vinnie, Deb, and others all did the heavy lifting, but sometimes I just need to touch something that inspires me to keep believing because healthcare is brutal these days.
On this day, I was visiting with customers in the therapy gym, watching 18 diligent therapists led by Cherie provide compassionate care that would make any healthcare organization proud to wear the uniform. I tried to talk to everyone and tell them, ‘there are no big gains without a little pain’ and telling them we are praying for a restoration when Cherie walked over to Aaron McIntosh, who everyone called ‘Mac.’
He was a former business owner, military veteran and Detroit resident who hit rock bottom. With constant heart problems and no hope for a high quality of life he just shut down, rarely wanting to get out of bed. He had become focused on dying by giving up, but today was a different and new day.
He received the new VAD (Ventricular Assist Device) treatment, which is like a chest vest that keeps him alive and regulates his heartbeat, and rhythm. He started to work hard with our clinical team, made dozens of new friends, and became a cheerleader for everyone else fighting hopelessness because he was feeling younger, getting his power back, and learning to bear weight with a hope to walk again slowly, soon. He believes there are better days ahead for all of us; that if we just start believing, thinking in a positive mindset and push ourselves to our limits, anything is possible.
I told Mac how health care was becoming more difficult. He said I could start calling customers, give them motivating talks, tell them miracles happen at Signature, and do a podcast for the hopeless residents to tell them they have other options – become a mentor, in other words.
He had everything I look forward in a revolutionary leader: passion, dedication, experience, and a deep belief in the Revolution. I told Mac, ‘My VP job is open, do you want to apply? I need a traveling wing man.’ And I think he is thinking about it.
What a story! And it would not have happened if the Buckhead miracle never happened – hopelessness would have reigned here for all. But it lost and hope won because Loretta and her team love their customers, and push them to the limits of their possibilities.
And when it works, it is so beautiful that I can’t wait to get out of bed the next day. Thanks, Mac. Send resumé to…
Prior to COVID, I think we all felt like we spent more time with work, work partners and peers than our own families. Was it good or bad? For me, I worked with some of the most talented people in the country, so I loved it. And obviously I love my family too! I had the blessing to work with a friend, brother, Savant, Mensa member, and so much more for nearly a decade and a half – Stephen Stocksdale. To say he was talented with an amazing range is honestly a great understatement in a world full of the opposite. Stephen did so much intellectually, professionally, and personally that for the first three years of working with him, I assumed it “all could not be true”. But time and time again I learned the opposite was true. He served our mission-based organization in every role (field leader, controller, administrator, VP, strategy, consultant, start-ups, etc.) and whatever else we asked of him. Despite having more professional success himself, he just wanted to help us grow in all ways.
One day 5 ½ years ago, Stephen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we grieved with him as you would expect. But he was a determined guy and decided to not just learn all he could about cancer, but to master it. He decided there had to be a path he could carve out for himself that no doctor had considered, or he would locate new research that would help him beat it. With a scientific mind and unparalleled IQ, he found a clinical trial he was approved to get in. This trial’s treatment regimen was so potent, and Stephen was the only one that survived. He learned about transfusions, blood structures, and cancer interventions. Cancer kicked his ass often, but he always beat it back up and won again!
We cheered, prayed, and cried often over the past years, but learned three great lessons from Stephen that we all cherish today:
- “Be a Lifelong Learner” because we can always master new things and age is just a number, but lifelong learners never get old. Stephen mastered EMT services, police work, cancer research, hospital administration, heart transplant programs, high level statistical methods, travel, long term care, teaching, and many other degrees, certifications, and accomplishments over 65 years, so let’s all keep Learning and keep growing!
- “Never Give Up” because we grow everyone around us in our struggles and sufferings in ways that impact everyone around us and Stephen knew that and wanted us to get stronger, be more grateful and relearn presence, which we all did! When he came back home, he rarely missed a day at the office and taught all of us new things daily up until the moment he passed last week.
- “GOD IS SO REAL” Stephen had historical expertise on religions, studied theological premises, and had a metaphysical outlook, but in this battle, he felt like he met the Lord and had to share it with all of us. He knew he beat something that is nearly unbeatable, and he wanted time to share his story, his walk, and his private time with the Lord. He watched prayer groups with people he barely knew praying 24/7 that he receives a miracle, and he did receive one that he could share with all of us.
Our organization is going through a very painful time as a mid-size nursing home organization that has stakeholders who worked under unbelievable stress and pressure for so long and had to endure seeing some of our residents pass away. We have lost half of our team, and we are still trying to rebuild stronger and better. I think after serving through the pandemic for 2 ½ years and struggling with how to bring it all back together in this changing workplace and overworked healthcare system, and after suffering so much pulsating unknowns for so long, it was Stephen who gave us the best reason to not look back. He taught us to enjoy the struggle as something that can deepen us all and stay prayerful that God is with us during times like these. We need to rebuild and have new passion as learners, which Stephen demonstrated everyday making our lift just a little easier. And lastly, when you beat cancer four times and die from something else, how could we ever give up? It’s time for us to just “STOCKSDALE IT” and grow by learning, fighting harder and believing in our purpose!
Stephen’s office will remain untouched for now because when he left work on Monday with his ambitious assignments on his wall, we never knew we would not see him again. However, we can certainly feel his presence and we are all better people for his amazing lessons that he taught us until his last hour!