PMD: 2004 – That Which Does Not Kill Us…

You know how there are some things in life that are pivotal – something happens, and it changes the way you see yourself or others around you…and sometimes it even changes your life. Well in 2004 Pediatric Medical and I hit a bump in the road – and neither of us would ever be the same after.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a family friend who had offered to help us make PMD a reality, someone who was both a friend and mentor to me. Well by March 2004 the two of us were off and running discussing strategies for bringing the “PedREST” (our child seat for safe ambulance transport) to market and making plans for Pediatric Medical’s path forward. I was literally on Cloud 9 and nothing could bring me down. 🙂

Within a month I started working producing an animated marketing demo (something she felt strongly would really help folks understand why the PedREST was so important). I hired some animators from California and after a couple of pretty intense working sessions the project was complete. Video in hand, I headed to her home for the weekend.

I know in hindsight that this may sound silly, but at the time I was feeling pretty darn good about what I’d accomplished in such a short time…I had this really cool 3D-animated demo to show her, we had a meeting setup for the following day with a potential investor whose support was going to make it possible to bring the PedREST to market by the end of the year…and more importantly, for the first time I felt like I had finally proven myself to her– why else would she suggest sitting down to discuss our future as partners together. I honestly couldn’t have been more psyched …or more wrong.

My first hint that our time together was not going to be anything at all like I expected occurred within moments after I arrived. After a hug and a hello, we sat down at a table with her friend – the lawyer. We spent the next two hours talking about why she should have more than 50% share in the company (…after all, she would be contributing a large sum of money – significantly more than my sister and I put together – shouldn’t she be in control of it?) AND why we should buy out (think – cut ties to) my sister (…didn’t I know the inventor of the idea doesn’t usually maintain a share).

For hours we went around and around on the same questions – why wasn’t I willing to drop Suzanne …why wasn’t I comfortable giving up control of the company and …how long would it take for me to think things through and make a decision so we could move forward? We could draw up the paperwork that weekend if I liked and include the money she had “loaned” me for the demo.

Loaned??? Wait a second – when had the money she promised me for the demo that she wanted me to create become a loan??? My head was swimming. I honestly had no idea what to do at that point. While I was incredibly psyched that she believed in our project enough to invest her own money (she was in fact the investor we were to meet with the following day), there was no way I was booting my sister. I had made a promise – a commitment to her – and I was going to see it through. Finally, I asked for time to think about it (at this point I felt brain-dead), and we wrapped up for the day.

It was at that point when I remembered (@*&#%) I wasn’t leaving…I was staying at her home for the night.

About an hour later we sat down on her couch and she asked if we could talk (…of course in my mind, she hadn’t meant for the day to go as it did…I just had to give her a chance to explain and apologize). Wrong again. Instead I spent the next hour hearing how I was making all the wrong decisions in my life…why wasn’t I married yet (or even dating someone seriously)? Why wasn’t I in a different career? Didn’t I realize this venture was going to take several years to come to market??? (I should be in a much better financial position than the one I was in).

I’d like to say that I was stronger – that I picked myself up, grabbed my bags and walked out of there – but in truth I just sat there in disbelief…and went to sleep that night feeling utterly crushed.

Thinking back on it today, I recognize what a Pivotal Moment that day was… The reality was that I was upset with her for being the tough, focused business-woman I had always been impressed by. Except – she was being that way with me – something I never in a million years expected. To her this was purely business,and she was treating me like an acquisition target when I considered myself family. She had compartmentalized and I had not. And although that day I felt totally betrayed, I also learned a couple of things about myself:

First – I had always said my word was my bond, and I know I believed it when I said it…but my word, my character, had never really been tested until that day…and I am truly proud to say I passed.

One other thing I learned that day was that this woman I had always admired and idolized – I did not in fact want to “grow up to be like her”. I might never be anywhere near as powerful and successful as she was, but surprisingly enough that didn’t matter the way I thought it would… once I saw what it would take to get there, I was unwilling to pay the price.

Life is funny sometimes. The experiences we live…the choices we make…for better or for worse they define who we are… Did I make the right choice? Perhaps not if it turns out that the PedREST never makes it to market. Or maybe so, because the path I chose led me to Pediatric Safety. I guess for now the jury’s still out, although for those of you kind enough to join me on this journey, I’d love to know what you think…

Until next time…

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


3 Responses to “PMD: 2004 – That Which Does Not Kill Us…”

  1. Suzanne Hantke says:

    I debated writing this; the “not to write” because the site has so many professionals, like doctors and nurses, and the “go for it” telling me not only are many Mom’s on this site… but professionals are human too!
    So with that, I have decided to follow the “go for it” path.

    When I came back to Atlanta for the first time since my divorce, and you helped me to clear out my storage facility, I recall when we got back to your place, we made a small “campfire” to burn all the sentimental stuff from my ex. Your friend joined us, and burned some stuff from her own past. And there was only one thing you wanted to burn… a card. You had put it down, and gone inside for something. If it was a test to see if I’d mind my own business, I failed horribly! My curiosity got the better of me. Who could have possibly written a letter to you that either hurt or angered you so much you wanted to burn it.

    I cannot remember the content of the letter, or if there was even anything personal or specific in it, but we talked about it later. You had never told me about it because you were worried how upset or hurt I would be by it… not the card, but the suggestion to “cut me loose”. But I didn’t have any kind of friendship or relationship with this person, so I did not feel betrayal by it.

    However, what I do remember, so clearly, was an overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude for the relationship we now had (have!)… given how much we hated each other growing up. And there aren’t any words in the English language for the other overwhelming feeling I had (and I even looked up synonyms for the word gratitude… none of them were sufficient!) – and this may sound way over-dramatic, but I do not think I again need to reiterate how badly I had always felt about myself – but that you had walked away from someone… a friend, AND someone with MONEY… because of your loyalty to, belief in, and love for… me.
    I am actually wiping tears with a tissue as I write this….

    So regardless of whether you are proud of or regret that decision back then, it doesn’t matter to me. And whereas my memory is horrible, there are a few things in my life I will never forget. And this… will always be the most important of all of them.
    Again, I love you.

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Suzanne – the friendship we have now is one of the reasons that – despite the challenges – I am grateful for having taken this journey with you.


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  1. […] can probably tell, 2004 was a bit of a rollercoaster. And trust me when I say that after that disaster of a weekend, I was seriously ready for the cart to start rolling uphill […]

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