My Friend David: A True Hero

After I had purchased my first dental practice in February of 1996, I inherited the staff from the retiring doctor. Among them was a genteel and very kind dental assistant named Shanna. I was 29, she was about 27 and we seemed to hit it off quite well from the start. She asked my ex and I over to her house for dinner soon after, and I was introduced to her husband David. From the beginning I knew that this was a man of unusual character and intellect, and his story intrigued me.  

From the outset David and I seemed to connect very well, although as I’ve unfortunately learned people tend to hold back a bit as they initially consider your socioeconomic rank relative to theirs. After a time, and especially now, those pretenses that separated us a bit initially have all but vanished. 

I came to learn that David worked at a plant that made batteries for cars and such, and upon my inquiry as to his function there, he seemed to know the entire operation of the plant systems right down to the smallest detail. I could tell that David was a much more valuable asset to his company than he was aware of. Many mangers, right up to the highest levels of leadership, at his plant surely required David and his abilities more than they would likely admit to.

Later at my prodding, David told me that he had done very well in high school and that he had even gained acceptance into the Airforce Academy, at the urging of one of his more encouraging teachers. 

David the eldest of 3 boys, grew up in a lower middle class home in a very blue-collar town, with a mother who didn’t expect much from him in terms of academic, career or any other ambitions. His father, had left the family and the West Coast, long ago and David was thrust into the role of a quasi-father for his two younger brothers and mother. Unfortunately, David contracted a severe kidney infection during his last year of high school, making him ineligible for millitary duty. This David was making sense to me now!

A few years later, after speaking to a friend at a Fourth of July BBQ, I decided to create a cellphone accessories retail company. I read a book on merchandising by Paco Underhill, designed a display, and a few months later had opened my first three locations. With David’s help, I would eventually have 13 locations, extending from Eugene, Oregon to just North of Seattle, Washington along a few hundred miles of the Interstate-5 highway corridor. 

I was better at creating things and leading people than managing them, and mall workers are not a constituency that I had much patience for. So I reached out to David for assistance and to my huge surprise and benefit he dropped everything, sold his house, quit his job and became my right hand. Our experience of running this newly minted company was crazy and one of the best experiences of my life. David and I learned so much about life, business, and each other.

Several years ago Shanna, David’s wife was diagnosed with a pernicious brain tumor, Glioblastoma. 99% of those diagnosed die within the first two years, but Shanna was still young so the prognosis was slightly better, though still very grim. 

In times when our world gets rocked the hardest, we have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and test out what we truly believe, as it’s no longer theory! If I were to pick one person, from anyone I know or any person I’ve ever heard of to be on my team during a challenge of the most epic magnitudes, it would be David and I’d never look back!

Now shocked and requiring large sums of money, David arranged to have a life insurance policy he’d taken out for Shanna years earlier, cashed out so that he could fund his wife’s ongoing treatments and for his considerable travel expenses, all while caring for his wife and daughter. 

He then found the three best neurosurgeons in the country and personally spoke and met with each one of them (on multiple occasions). He successfully convinced each one of them to examine Shanna and to attempt to save her life through a series of operations in San Fransisco, Dallas and Boston. 

During this frenzy and the severe emotional drama attached to it, he found a computer program and taught himself how to use it and how to effectively read and interpret MRI scans, so that he could fully understand his wife’s condition and so he could “discuss” her ongoing treatments with her various brain surgeons. David is not a man to be messed with if your intention is to placate him or gloss over things, these doctors would come to fully know what that meant!

Shana died about 2 years after she was diagnosed, but even as her health continued to deteriorate, I can imagine that she felt the profound feeling of love and support from her husband and his Herculean efforts to love and save her. 

David now works for himself and has acheived a bachelors and a masters degree, and is pondering a doctorate.  His resume matters little, his heart a lot!

I am personally beyond blessed and proud to count David as one of my closest friends in the world!

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