From Ski Accident to Grateful Patient Donor in 4 Days

Accidents happen! Life altering ones, little ones and everything in between. A quote from Nelson Mandela I saw on my Facebook timeline recently reminded me of an important lesson I had learned the hard way two weeks shy of my 13th birthday.

Mark Patient“It is in character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences,” Mandela once pointed out to a group of foreign correspondents in Johannesburg.

When my two brothers and I found my Dad crushed underneath his tractor in a farming accident, learning a life lesson was the furthest thing from my mind. But over time, as time began to heal the emotional wounds of losing my father at the beginning of my teen years, I began to understand what Nelson Mandela spoke about and once I learned it, it remains with me to this day.

It is in this spirit that when I had a ski accident two weeks ago at Baquiera Ski Resort in Spain resulting in a serious shoulder injury requiring urgent surgery, I decided not to look back in wishful “un-spilling” of the proverbial milk. Instead I decided to look for lessons I could learn from the painful accident.

Mainly, I was reminded that giving great service results in appreciation from those you serve. But more than that, an appreciative customer is good for the bottom line – as a customer for your company, or a donor for your charity.

Despite the pain, at first I didn’t think my injury was very serious, preferring to think I’m more or less invincible. But an attentive hotel concierge agent noticed my discomfort and suggested since I had purchased emergency insurance, I should get my shoulder checked out. It took doctors at the emergency centre only minutes to discover my shoulder was fractured, or worse and referred me to a clinic on my return to Barcelona to have an MRI and CT scan.

“You’ve come to the right place, said Dr. Vidal, one of the attending physicians in Baqueira. We have a clinic with the experts you need in Barcelona. It turns out that Dr. Vidal is head of Orthopaedic Surgery and Tramatology at Centro Médico TEKNON, a respected clinic in Barcelona where one of his staff is also an expert in shoulder injuries. But more than just being experts, they understand the importance of delivering exceptional and personal healthcare service.

My accident happened on February 2. The next day I called TEKNON in Barcelona and received an MRI appointment the following day. The diagnostic results came within two hours, along with the news that I needed surgery as soon as possible to screw my shoulder back together.

“But I’m flying home to Canada tomorrow,” I told Dr. Vidal.

“You shouldn’t,” he replied. Your shoulder is very unstable and you risk long-term problems if you don’t have this taken care of within a few days. We’d like to operate tomorrow. Can you change your flight?”

“I think so,” I replied.

“I tell you what. My assistant Katy will help you work through our system. Take the afternoon to make your alternate arrangements. In the meantime, we’ll hold your spot in surgery for tomorrow afternoon.”

The experience got even better as he brought in others on his team to explain how my shoulder works, the nature of my injury and why it was important to look after it right away. One of them sketched out my shoulder and how the injury looked while showing me the MRI transparency. They also used videos and 3-D shoulder models to make sure I understood. Honestly, my experience felt more like a concierge service taking care of my physical and emotional needs more than receiving typical healthcare delivery.

Mark Patient2The next morning, Dr. Vidal’s assistant Katy efficiently whisked me from station to station preparing the necessary pre-op procedures – a CAT scan, x-rays, blood tests, heart monitoring and the like. There was a bit of a delay in aligning the availability of a hospital bed, surgery room and anesthesiologist and so Katy found me a place to rest and have a nap while I waited.

At 7pm, I was wheeled into the operating room and the team was waiting. Dr. Vidal took my hand and said, “Are you ok? This has all happened very fast.”

“Honestly, I’m blown away,” I told him. “I’ve got full confidence and I’m ready.”

The next morning, my final surprise and delight came at 8:30 when the team of 4 surgeons walked into my hospital room along with Katy. They wanted to know how I was and to explain the next steps in my recovery.

You’re free to fly to Canada in two days, the doctor told me. We’re very pleased with how the surgery went and because we were able to deal with it right away, we see no reason why you will have long-term effects from this – particularly if you take the time to heal properly and to get the proper physiotherapy rehabilitation for your shoulder.

Now it was my turn to surprise and delight them. I was so pleased with my experience I went straight to the Teknon Foundation office and told them I wanted to make a grateful patient donation. Strangely, this is not something that’s normally done in Spain and I had to teach them how a grateful patient donation works. They are accustomed to events and corporate giving and are only now exploring individual giving. You should explore this more, I said. If the service I received is consistently how you care for people, there must be others who would do the same as I.

What strikes me is this. We often go after donors like target practice. We aim for them send them a barrage of communications in the hope they will relent and finally support us. But I want to pick up on a point I made in my most recent blog – an important lesson a Board member taught me in my 20s when I was new to the fundraising world. I’ve never forgotten it.

Rendal Caseley was a business man who lived large in his community as a community volunteer and very successful business man. The lesson – “our job is to make the conditions right for giving.”

Dr. Vidal and his medical team, with their personal service and terrific care made the conditions right for giving but they did more, they prompted a giving action without once considering such a return. There is nothing like a satisfied customer who has received a service that far exceeds expectations. The performance of Dr. Vidal’s team prompted me to become a donor. More important, they set a standard of service that will be hard to match in Canada.

And that’s the lesson I learned from breaking my shoulder.


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