• Cecil Lewis Jr.

Alex, A Story Of Inspiration

Yesterday, it was the one-week mark of the State of Bavaria’s “Ausgangsbeschränkungen” order (how is that for a word meaning exit restrictions or stay at home?). It has been a week in which life as we know it, came to a screeching halt.

In that I had decided to use some of my newfound free time to chronicle the happenings related to the COVID-19 pandemic during this time, I sat down yesterday morning and began to write about the home lockdown and social distancing.

Typically, when I write, the story flows quite easily. However yesterday it was a struggle. The more I wrote, the more depressed I became as I attempted to convey the situation and the impact on life. I thought, “there are plenty of these types of stories being reported on the news and on social media. I think we all need a break from this”. So, I decided to write about something that happened this week that was inspiring during a time we could all use a bit of inspiration.

The story actually begins in late August of last year. My company had decided to hire an intern (German = Praktikum) for our office in Germany. Our business was doing really well and growing. Hence, the time was perfect to bring on an additional resource to learn our technology and business, with the goal that our intern would move into a full-time position after the completion of the internship.

In early August, we selected Alex Heil to be our intern and began the process to bring him on board. I had known Alex for quite some time, in that this is a small town. Also, he and his business partner (Domi) owned a bar in town (Brick-Bar) that my band had played at on several occasions. I was always impressed that these guys (Alex was 26 years old at the time) who while attending college, had the courage and passion to open their own business at such a young age. (as you know I have a deep respect for entrepreneurs).

Alex, heating things up at his bar.

Alex was pursuing a business and technical degree at the local university and had some technology experience from another business venture he was a part of. He was smart, enthusiastic, hardworking, responsible and had an interest in technology. This was also a great opportunity for him to join a software company (and our company pays its interns), with the potential of moving into a full-time position that could open many opportunities for him in the future and possibly evolve into a successful long term career.

On August 30th, 2019 Alex signed his employment agreement with our company. His official start date would be Monday, September 2nd. Then on Sunday, August 31st, I received a WhatsApp message, “Alex was in a serious accident yesterday, he was on his scooter and was hit by a car and is in critical condition at a hospital in Munich”. The following photos were sent with the message.

Alex's Scooter

Helicopter Rescue

I was completely shocked, shaken and very worried, as I was not sure of his condition or the severity of his injuries…..would he survive? I could not grasp what he, his family and his friends must have been going through at this time. A young vibrant man driving his scooter from town to his parent’s house is struck by a car and in a single moment his life might have ended or at the very least was forever changed.

I had shared the information with my colleague Rene over the weekend and on Monday morning we both arrived at the office feeling a bit overwhelmed with the news. I still did not have any details or status on the situation, so Rene contacted the hospital and was actually allowed to speak with the doctor and later with Alex’s Mom. They confirmed the situation was critical, but it was too early to determine the long-term prognosis.

His left leg was basically crushed to pieces and a bone had pierced his skin. What was potentially the most fatal aspect of his injuries, was an artery near his neck had been cut.

English Translation:

Scooter Driver (26) Badly Injured An 81-year-old motorist from the Landshut district wanted to turn into Lindenstraße and overlooked a 26-year-old scooter driver. A collision occurred, in which the scooter driver suffered life-threatening injuries. Emergency services flew him to a hospital in Munich in a rescue helicopter.

Upon his arrival at the hospital, the medical team performed emergency surgery to close the artery, which was becoming fatal due to the massive amount of blood he had lost. The first surgery was the first of four surgeries to attend to his injuries. Several nails, metal plates, 30 screws and a stint in the heart were required to put Alex together again (a.k.a. the bionic man).

Although he was still in critical condition, in the days that followed his condition continued to improve and the prognosis was that he would recover. Alex was young, strong and determined. In the weeks and months that followed he slowly regained his mobility, entered rehab and was able to walk again.

Although I am old enough to be his father (which by the way I am not), because of our differences in age his close circle of friends are different than mine, I always counted Alex as a friend. The first time I saw him after the accident I gave him a big hug and I nearly cried, as I was overcome by the fact he had survived and could not imagine what he had been through. He was on crutches and his leg was in a brace, but he was walking again and 3 ½ months after his accident, (in mid-December) Alex finally got to have his first day of work with our company.

I have hired and trained many people in my career. When we initially hired Alex, I knew he was a good fit for us, and he seemed very excited about the opportunity of a career in software.

As we embarked on his training and he worked for us several weeks, I noted a change in Alex. He was still very enthusiastic and engaged in learning about our technology and the job, but something was different. Then it hit me, perhaps this accident had changed or impacted his values, priorities and possibly his goals in life.

I actually researched the topic of near-death experience (called NDE), as I have known a few people who have had this experience. In some cases, there can be some negative effects to NDE, however, there are some common emotional and behavioral effects that NDE people have observed.

  • They no longer have any fear of death (they already have knocked on death’s door and survived)

  • Their values have changed. Previous pastimes or goals are different or no longer of interest.

  • For some there is less emphasis or motivation to accumulate material possessions or earn vast sums of money; job status is no longer of importance, and there is more of a focus on fulfilling their dreams, desires, and personal goals.

  • Simple things in life matter. Things that others take for granted become very important.

  • They typically like to spend more time with their family and friends than before their NDE and become more appreciative of these relationships.

  • They develop a deep sense of gratitude for life as well as feeling more love and compassion toward others.

  • Some experience a sense, that they survived or were spared death because they needed to accomplish a mission or task in life. (God wasn’t finished with them yet)

  • Some experience a renewed or newfound belief in God or their religion.

Readers, did you read this list closely? I personally am not looking to have an NDE anytime soon, but these are actually a good set of values to have.

In mid-March, Alex completed his internship with our company. The internship is a requirement of obtaining his college degree. Some weeks before the pending completion of his internship, I said, “Alex, I don’t think you want to be a software sales engineer right now”. He said, “no, at least not for now. I have an opportunity to purchase a restaurant in a partnership with Domi and Roman and I want to go for it”. https://www.facebook.com/burgschaenke.landshut/

What can you say to that? A young man that survived a traumatic event in life, wants to chase a dream. Of course, I was fine with it. Yes, I would have loved to have him stay on for selfish reasons. So, I simply took the opportunity to give him some fatherly advice……..FINISH your degree!!!! I told him he only has a couple of semesters to go and his degree is something he will always have and will never regret that he finished. (it is always good to have a backup plan)

In March, Alex and his business partners signed the contract for their new restaurant. (by the way, a great spot located in the castle overlooking the city, it is the castle in the cover picture of my blog page). They planned to open in early April and were planning their grand opening for later in the month (my band was scheduled to perform) and then BOOM!!!.....the pandemic. His existing bar is shut down at least until mid-April and his new restaurant opening is delayed until the government lifts the order for the closer of bars and restaurants in the region. (as if this guy had not had enough to deal with over the last 9 months)

Then early this week, I received a text from Alex. The conversation went something like this:

Alex: Hey Cecil, I want to buy a guitar can you make a recommendation?

Cecil: Really do you want to learn the guitar? or are you just trying to pick up chicks?

Alex: Ha, Ha! No, I would really like to learn and well……with the lockdown right now, I have plenty of time.

Sorry, but I assumed it might have been the chick factor because Alex might have seen my “Musician’s Chick-Odometer” or he was aware that it is a scientific fact that girls love guys who play guitar. I am not making this up……………………read this for yourself. https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/study-women-more-attracted-guys-who-play-guitar/

Musician’s Chick-Odometer

I started to tell him that if he was doing it for the girls, that he could save his money on the guitar and go buy a guitar gig bag at Mick’s Guitar Center and carry it on his back while he is strolling around town. (Messiah Mick, after I publish this blog you might want to stock up on some gig bags) https://www.facebook.com/MicksGuitarCenter/

Nonetheless, I sent Alex a few guitar recommendations. I told him that he did not need to spend a lot of money on his 1st guitar for learning and if he really gets into it, later he can invest in something nice. (notice how guitar guys, call the purchase of a guitar an investment) Alex sent me this picture yesterday, it is him and his new guitar on the lawn at the castle, by his new restaurant.

Alex and his Fender Acoustic

Here I was sitting at home, writing a story about being locked in my apartment and not being able to go anywhere or do anything; feeling sorry for myself, feeling depressed, worrying about this pandemic, wondering what the future would hold. Then I get a message from this guy, who survived a horrific accident and will carry the scars from this day for the rest of his life and probably has about 20 more reasons to be worried or angry, not only about what he has been through, but what he is facing now with his businesses. Still yet after all of this, he decides he wants to buy a guitar and use this time to do something that he has always wanted to do…….something I will call “Pandemic Therapy”.

Yes, we are living in unprecedented times, life sucks right now and the world is a mess. There are going to be more challenges ahead, we will have to do some rehabilitation of our own after this is over, things might be different in the future, but you know what?……………..we too will survive.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity for us all to take a little lesson from Alex. First, it might be a good time for us all to give thanks for our own health and for the health and wellbeing of our families and friends. Then, take a little time for some life evaluation; are you happy with where you are at in life? what are your dreams? what are your goals? and take an inventory of what is really important to you and maybe use this time to make a plan or to do something you have always wanted to do. You know that taking the time to plan or to learn something new that will become a part of your life in the years ahead (like playing the guitar) is a commitment to the future and trust me our future will be bright again.

During the emergency procedure to repair his artery, Alex received some damage to his vocal cords and when he spoke he sounded like Joe Cocker after smoking 4 packs of cigarettes in on day (Joe Cocker = singer of “You Are So Beautiful To Me”). A small issue in comparison to what might have been. He will have 2 more surgeries in the months ahead. One to repair his vocal cords and the other to remove some of the metal from his body.

Alex, my thoughts and prayers will be with you during your upcoming surgeries and for the success of your business endeavors. I hope you enjoy your new guitar (and its magical chick magnet powers), I look forward to jamming with you soon. Thank you for letting me share your story!


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