As the Dean for the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University, I teach my students that the ultimate goal of leadership is to make a difference – a difference for the organizations in which we work and for the communities in which we live. This year, I am acting on my own lessons and am the Leadership Chair for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Light The Night Walk.
[caption id="attachment_91451" align="alignleft" width="320"] Bill and Benji Silver celebrating Benji’s birthday on top of Hood Mountain[/caption]
Let me tell you the story about why. It is a story with a happy ending, but it may not seem that way at first . . .
Around this time fourteen years ago I was riding high. I had just been promoted to chief operating officer in my organization; my wife Adrienne had become a partner in her pediatric medical practice; we were living the rocky mountain life in Colorado surrounded by friends, family and life was good. On Dec. 12, 1999 our first child, Benji, was born. For those of you reading this who are parents, you know that the birth of your child is truly one of life’s most joyous and special moments.
And so it was for us. Benji was a beautiful, happy, boy whose little gurgles and giggles brought smiles to our faces, and the sparkle in his eyes brightened our days. For the first three months of his life, we counted ourselves lucky for how easy and how much fun it was being parents.
And then, he started to get a little fussy. Not very fussy mind you, just a little. At first we thought it was a winter cold or an upset tummy or an “owie” we couldn’t see, and we expected it to pass. But it didn’t. After a week of fussiness we brought him to see his doctor who proclaimed, “Everything checks out and it is not uncommon for babies to become occasionally irritable. He might be developing some colic or possibly he has a slight breast milk allergy. Why don’t you try some formula and we’ll see what happens.”
A week or so passed with no change. He wasn’t any worse per se, but he didn’t seem to be feeling better. Adrienne, being the pediatrician-Mom, was worried. I said to her, “You know of every horrible thing that can happen to kids because you’re a doctor. Stop worrying. You always tell me that kids are resilient. He’ll be fine.” She responded that something just seemed wrong to her and that she was going to take him in to see her colleagues with whom she trained at Children’s Hospital. I said that she was being paranoid and that I was going skiing.
Driving back from the slopes, I got a call from Adrienne asking me to come by the hospital. She told me that she didn’t know anything yet, but that the doctors didn’t like the blood test results and wanted to run them again. Likely nothing to worry about but they want to do some more tests.
About a mile out from the hospital I got another call, but couldn’t really hear what she was saying because she was crying so much. She said something about cancer and that I better get to the hospital as fast as I could. I remember flooring the gas pedal and ignoring all traffic laws (and frankly common sense) as I sped to Children’s Hospital. I remember running down the hospital corridor, finding my crying, devastated wife, and wrapping my arms around her.