Almost a month ago I woke up to a phone call at 7am. It was my mother’s partner’s son calling me to tell me that my mum had a stroke and was in hospital.

She had been watching TV, heard a buzzing noise, had a seizure and started speaking gibberish. Her partner called an ambulance and although she recovered somewhat on the way to the hospital emergency area, she succumbed again and was admitted to the intensive care unit.

I arrived at the hospital the morning after the stroke. Thus began our new life.

This experience was, and continues to be an emotional roller coaster. It is difficult to see your mother unable to move or talk, essentially trapped in her own body. She’s a strong minded intelligent woman, currently facing her worst nightmare. When she is most alert she can communicate with us via her left toe and arms, and her eyes open, but most of the time she is in a half awake state, constantly poked and prodded by the hospital staff.

Her prognosis is somewhat unknown. Time will tell how much better she will get and the main medicine is patience. This is the kind of patience that can last months – even years.

I’m currently typing this sitting in the stroke ward next to my mother. She is surrounded by people who are in varying degrees of the same condition and a dedicated staff of nurses and doctors there to help. As her only son I am the closest person in the world to her and I know my presence and voice has the potential to be of the most help. I especially want to be here during the times she is afraid, and to monitor her changes so I can stay abreast of her condition.

I Have A Day Job

The purpose of this article is not to reflect on how emotional, spiritual or awareness changing an experience like this can be to all involved. That reflection expressed in writing will no doubt come in the future, as the story progresses and I feel it’s the right time to write about it.

For the time being I want to offer some explanation for where I have been, given this blog hasn’t seen my writings for nearly four weeks. Considering I have published something of my own on this blog at least once a week since it started I figured you might be wondering what happened to me. I’ve communicated via Twitter and Facebook to update people, but since not everyone follows me at those sites I figured it was time to update the E-J audience.

Currently I have a day job. I spend every day, seven days a week, at hospital with my mum. I go home to feed the cat and do the one or two chores I give myself each night (clean dishes, wash clothes, pay bills, process email, etc.). I cook myself some dinner, watch a little TV, check the Internet, then head to bed and do it all over again the next day.

I don’t feel upset that my life has become so focused on the hospital and may well be for many months because I can’t imagine anywhere else I want to be. This is a job I have to do and want to do. Being elsewhere feels uncomfortable, though of course I realize balance is necessary, so I don’t spend every hour next to my mum’s bed. I manage to do some exercise at the park near the hospital, head to the city for lunch once a week, see friends occasionally and do some work on the laptop.

As horrible at times as this experience has been, it’s also been a real privilege. Though I don’t wish to see my mother suffer, since reality is what it is, I’ve had to take on board this situation and process it from all angles. On some levels it has been amazing and a gift, though it is far from easy.

What About Business?

At the start of this year I began to make changes to this blog. I’ve written previously about the introduction of the new columnists to E-J, about the switch to a magazine model and increasing the value this site provides through other peoples contributions.

A big benefit of this process, and certainly a big motivation behind it, has been to remove the dependency this blog has had on my work to succeed. Little did I realize that just a few months after making these changes would I face a situation that would really test the system.

As you can imagine I haven’t had much time to do work, nor did I have a lot of motivation, especially during the first few weeks where everything was constant changes, big decisions and lots of communicating with people about what was going on with my mum.

I consider it a real blessing that the entire time I spent next to my mother when all this broke out, my business continued to function pretty much as it had. Here’s what my business currently does without me –

  1. The wonderful team of columnists continue to share their entrepreneurs journey with you, with one new article per week-day coming from either Leevi, Neroli, Dr Mani, Dee, Leslie, Nacie, Aziz, Kerry, Mitch, Sunil or Ken.
  2. Steph, our editor, works with the columnist team to edit and maintain a publishing schedule. She also liaises with all the writers and handles applications from new budding columnists.
  3. Angela, my long serving admin person, handles all the email and customer service for our paying members as she has done for many years. I generally batch process emails once every week or two, handling the 20 to 30 messages that pile up that only I can deal with.
  4. In another situation of good timing, development on my new software service recently went into a phase that doesn’t require much from me. We completed the visual designs, which I worked closely on with Mick my designer, but that wrapped up in May. Mick and my development partner Walter have been working hard on the code to put everything together, which has progressed without needing my input.
  5. Although I’m not making as much money as I did when all my courses were launched the first time, enough comes in from advertising, affiliate income and new memberships into my Blog Mastermind program to keep us cash flow positive. This all happens either automatically through payment systems and email autoresponders, or with a little help from Angela in the case of setting up sponsor ad campaigns.

Thanks to the years spent building up my blog, creating content and recruiting a small but vitally helpful work-from-home team, things run pretty smoothly.

It’s also a wonderful feeling knowing that our new projects are still progressing without me, since these are parts of my life I most look forward to on a personal level.

There Is One Thing

Given that I wasn’t able to find time for anything during the first two weeks in the intensive care unit it was interesting to see exactly what happened without me. Everything in the business continued fine, with only one area that required my help – blog article headline writing.

I’m quite picky with blog headlines here on E-J. The columnists write their own headlines, which sometimes we use as-is. More often than not however, I like to go to work to come up with improvements, since the headline is the most important part of an article, determining whether people bother to read it or not.

This is a creative task and somewhat subjective when it comes to deciding what will work. You only get once chance with a new article to release it with a good headline, since an article is only new once. It can be a hit and miss process, but since I’ve spent over five years writing headlines and email subject lines (very similar to headlines for blogs), I’ve become intuitive about what works well.

Steph, our editor, has stepped up to the plate when it comes to headlines, however her development as a kick-ass copywriter is still progressing. She is having to “unlearn” quite a bit of her academic background in order to develop this skill.

Steph and I have been doing headline brainstorming sessions a couple of times per week in order to sort out the headlines. We chat on skype and come up with headline concepts that we slowly work on until we have something we like. Since I’ve been in hospital, Gideon Shalwick has stepped up and helped out at night working with Steph.

Headlines and responding to email once a week or every two weeks are the only jobs I’ve needed to do. Even emails don’t really “need” me, since rarely are they actually pressing matters vital to the success of the business.

Can Your Business Run Without You?

This experience has really challenged me to think what would happen if it was me facing a rehabilitation period of possibly years? What would happen to my business if I couldn’t do ANY work?

These are questions you should ask yourself. Beyond your own health, consider what would happen if you had a loved one suddenly need your attention 10 hours per day. What would happen to your business? Would it keep working?

Here are some more specific questions you should consider answering if in the event you were no longer able to put in as much work – or any work at all – into your business.

  • What happens if you don’t reply to emails?
  • What happens if you don’t write articles or produce any content?
  • What happens if your contractors or staff don’t have you there to tell them what to do and make decisions?
  • Does your business generate an income without you being there to collect the money, send invoices etc?
  • Who pays your bills?
  • Who has access to your passwords to work on servers when you are not there?
  • How long can you go without doing anything new on your business at all?
  • What about Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools – does your business survive if you don’t maintain these?
  • Can your systems automatically deliver what people buy? What about customer support if things go wrong?
  • Does your business grow when you are not there, or shrink?

Have a think about some of these questions and how ready you are for situations that will make you face them.

Yaro Starak
Living In Hospital