Awareness is Key

Every Saturday I typically wake up and make a cup of coffee and an omelette. During the week, I am up early to get to the gym so breakfast at home and with the family isn’t part of the usual agenda.

I was going through that process on a recent Saturday in April when I received a call from my doctor. His voice was concerned as he echoed into the phone, “Scott, I want you to go to the emergency room right now.”

All I could say was “okay.” I had no questions — he had told me that my blood platelet count had dropped to a level that could be deadly. What else am I supposed to say at that point?

I looked at my wife, who was standing in the kitchen, and told her we had to get the kids and go. A short time later I was laying on a hospital bed, being admitted to the hospital with a platelet count of just 3,000 (normal is 140,000).

For context, platelets help your blood clot. When you get a cut, blood coats the skin with the platelets to heal itself. In my case, a cut would just bleed. But a cut wasn’t the main concern: any injury, including to the head, would lead to internal bleeding that could have caused serious harm.

The reason I’m writing about this is not for sympathy but to remind everyone that awareness is key. It’s an important driver of success, professionally and personally, but also — as this example clearly shows — with your health.

Five days prior to my hospital stay, I noticed a blood blister inside my mouth. Every day, a new blister or two would appear or disappear. By Wednesday I knew something wasn’t right so I made a doctor appointment for that Friday.

Retrospectively, there were other signs: random bruising on my body that I had no idea how I got; then, the morning of my appointment I noticed little red dots all on my body, which I now know as “petechia.” Those symptoms, along with the blisters, are basically your body telling you that your platelet count is under 10,000.

The awareness of my body and its typical state is what saved me.

I exercise at least four days per week, both cardio (Peloton bike or at least a two-mile run) and strength. I now have a new perspective on why it’s so important. Sure, I do it to look good, feel good and take care of myself for my family, but it also creates a baseline.

What I mean by that is it establishes a health and physical baseline to know when something is wrong. The blood blisters weren’t normal, but if I had bad gum/teeth care, maybe it wouldn’t have been abnormal. The bruising certainly wasn’t normal, but I am also active so excused that more than I probably should have. As for the petechia, little red dots on your body are never a good sign.

I had planned on writing about a new leadership model I’ve been developing this year before my health issue occurred. The reason I decided to put this post out there first though is because that model only works if awareness encompasses the entire process.

Constant checking, and through a realistic and not glossy lens, to make sure you’re doing, seeing, feeling, acting, etc. the right way is so critically important.

You can’t just be a great leader. You have to want to be a great leader. And to be a great leader, you need to be aware of when you’re doing things right, when you’ve made mistakes and when need to correct. Then — and maybe most importantly — you must take action.

In the same vein (no pun intended), a similar model is imperative for your health. To know if you’re healthy, you need to work at being healthy, know when something is good, know when it’s bad, and then correct.

The next couple months will be telling with how my recovery goes. There’s a lot of unknowns for now, but the doctors have a plan and they don’t feel as if it will turn into anything too serious.

To stay that course, however, awareness will be key.

October 2019 Update: It’s been almost six months since being diagnosed with ITP. This summer was a difficult one, undergoing numerous treatments, many of which didn’t leave me feeling great. But I knew I was taking all the right steps, including meeting with multiple specialists to gain consencous on the proper treatment. I also knew getting frustrated was not going to help me get better, so I tried to remain as positive as possible.

I’ve finally found a place of stability, one in which my platelet count is still low but not moving (especially down) without the use of medication. This is a good thing. As long as I know what to look out for, and am aware of what to do if something doesn’t look right, that’s the best I can do.

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