Lessons Learned After Life-Changing Event

Author: Kati Quigley       

Microsoft’s Kati Quigley, the former chair of PCMA’s Board of Directors, shares what a scare taught her, and how it changed her outlook on her professional and personal lives. PCMA is republishing it with permission from her original LinkedIn post.

I’ve been trying to write this story for more than two years. Being a marketer, writing is typically a quick turn, but this is the hardest thing I have ever written. I have debated whether or not to share it, but I believe that what I learned over these past two years has shifted my approach to work and life completely. Hopefully, it will touch others and help them as well.

August 13, 2016, is a day that I will now celebrate for the rest of my life, yet it was the most terrifying day I have ever experienced. My husband and two sons (then 16 and 14) were in my parents’ beach town for the weekend.

Kati Quigley

Kati Quigley

My husband was driving home from breakfast and started to veer off the road. He likes to joke so I thought he was just being funny. I turned to tell him to stop and lost my breath. He was slumped over and not moving, even with the car careening off the road. I looked forward and saw an electrical pole 10 feet ahead of us and we weren’t slowing down.

I remember bracing myself and everything was in slow motion, just like you see in the movies. We knocked the pole down, breaking it in half and our car came to a stop. Without hesitation, my sons and I jumped out of the car and moved into motion. My older son and I pulled my husband out of the car and my younger son called 911 and started a timer to know how long my husband was out to tell the first responders. I started CPR, but my older son quickly took over; he had just taken CPR in school. He did this for four long minutes until the first responders arrived.

The firemen put him in the ambulance and closed the doors. The next three hours were the longest of my life. We had to drive two hours, stop at two hospitals along the way and most of the time, we did not know if he was alive.

It turns out he had a massive [near] fatal heart attack that he miraculously survived. It was a long road to recovery — and still is. So many incredibly talented and kind people helped the four of us survive. We all dealt with it in different ways and needed support and help in various ways, but it changed all of us forever.

My husband has very little memory of the incident, but knows that life and your health is precious. My older son wrote about it in his college essay; he talked about how he now wants to lead his life in an extraordinary way, be a leader and be grateful. My younger son, who is quieter, has started to take more risks and reaches out more to others to connect.

The incident has had a profound effect on me personally and professionally. Personally, I now also take more risks. I challenge myself with trail races and am going to New Zealand next year for a 100k hike. I have champagne for every family birthday to celebrate life. I am grateful for my family, friends and caretakers who were so amazing during this time. And the four of us bonded into a very tight knit unit.

I wrote this piece because this my husband’s heart attack has changed my approach to how I show up every day to my job. Here are some of the things that I have learned. Hopefully they resonate with some of you.

  1. The things we think are challenges most days at work are not. They are a learning, an evolution, a path to a better solution when combining differing opinions. Those amazing first responders and caretakers are the ones who truly face amazing hurdles every day.
  2. People are incredibly resilient. There are days that are hard when we think it’s going to be difficult to get back at it the following day. But we almost always do. And you can always accomplish so much more than you realize.
  3. Having a growth mindset is a real thing. It’s not just corporate speak, but it is a choice about how you live your life. Life is not always going to go as you imagine it should. But when it doesn’t, there is always a chance to learn. You may not recognize the lesson right away, but eventually it shows up. I am now always looking for the reasons why things maybe went wrong and trying to find insight to be better.
  4. I don’t sweat the small stuff. My dad always has said this. I thought it made sense but I never truly embraced it. Like many people, I don’t want to show my weaknesses or mistakes. But now when I do, I don’t get so stressed out about them. I’m able to find the perspective faster.
  5. Take everyone with best intent. Most people get up every day with the intent to do good things. Someone may cross your path during the day and it’s a collision. Don’t think it’s always about you; they may be having a rough day or carrying a burden you don’t know about. React with kindness when you can, and things seem to always smooth themselves out.

I am not even close to realizing what other lessons I will learn from this experience, but I know that they are out there. I do know that I will continue to conquer mountains, drink champagne to celebrate life, and hug my family tight every chance that I can.

Kati Quigley is senior director of marketing for Microsoft’s Business Applications and Global Industry organization. She is a past chair of PCMA’s Board of Directors and has served on the PCMA Education Foundation Board of Trustees. Her husband, Tim, works for PCMA partner company PSAV as the VP of Industry Relations. Her husband, she told Convene, is doing well. “Our entire family makes sure that he is doing what he needs to in order to be as healthy as possible,” she said. “I think the boys are tougher on him than I am.”

More from Kati Quigley

Kati Quigley on Bold, Unbiased Leadership

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