In March of 2005, Dan and I decided to take a nine-day trip to Coimbatore, India to present our Ignite software to five universities and a huge motorcycle parts manufacturer.
At the time we had just spent a significant amount of money building our new headquarters in Orion, MI. But with all the excitement about outsourcing, it seemed like India was the place we needed to expand.
Not only did this experience open my eyes to how other people live, it gave me a real appreciation for another culture. I remember driving down the roads in India within a sea of motorcycles and seeing families of 4 to 5 people on a bike clipping down the dirt road at 40 miles per hour.
After being treated like royalty and presenting to the universities, we decided to travel to a resort up in the mountains for the last three days of the trip. We drove for hours through wild elephant terrain and started our ascent up the mountains to Punar. We drove another four hours through the mountains before it started to get dark and rainy. The dirt road we were on was only one lane and had a 1000-ft drop to the left. Our driver thought it best to see if we could stay somewhere for the night. After pulling up to what seemed like a small, old lodge, we were escorted inside by an older fellow with one eye. (Until seeing the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire, I did not know why he and many others only had one eye.)
The lodge turned out to be an old English tea plantation and this fellow was the keeper. I took the back bedroom and Dan took the front one. As I stepped into the bathroom, I noticed a spider, about the size of my hand, directly under my foot. After taking photos of it, I chased it under the sink. Exhausted, I tried to go to sleep on an antiquated and musty smelling bed that unpleasantly reminded me of a hockey locker room.
When I woke in the morning, I had a bite mark on my right arm and a 104-degree Fahrenheit temperature. Our chauffeur decided to rush me down the mountain to see a doctor. After taking several types of medication, my temperature came down and Dan and I were able to fly back to the USA. As we were flying, I noticed that Dan had been bitten on his left cheek.
Upon arriving in the USA, my temperature started to spike again, this time hitting 106 degrees Fahrenheit. After a night of ice packs, Tylenol, and Motrin from Laurie, my temperature finally broke. This time, leaving me with the worst fever blisters I’ve ever had!
Nine days later, I was driving to work when I got a call from Dan’s wife. She was hysterical and yelling something about a car accident and a seizure. After she finally told me where Dan was, I drove directly to the hospital where he lay in a coma. The doctor explained that Dan had a brain tumor and they were going to operate. I told the doctor about our trip to India and the bite mark, but he didn’t seem to be listening to me. When I went back to the hospital later that night, Dan’s vitals were failing fast. After doing a quick search on my Blackberry, I found that they had him on two conflicting intravenous medications.
I rushed to tell the nurse and she asked me, “How did you know, are you a doctor?” I replied, “No, I’m just a friend with internet access.” She quickly removed the IV.
The next morning Dan was awake. I was so freaked out by the medication screw-up from the night before that I called Dan’s brother Perry, and told him to get Dan out of that hospital. Perry agreed and quickly had Dan airlifted to the Mayo Clinic where they immediately diagnosed his condition as encephalitis and operated on the left side of Dan’s head to remove an infectious mass. Though they could not prove it, I believe wholeheartedly that it was caused by the insect bite on Dan’s face.
Dan spent the next year regaining his memory and trying to pull his life back together. Even though I really liked the people, the food, and the culture in India, the time and resources might have been better spent in our own backyard.
Tip: The grass is not always greener on the other side.