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Social Networks Help me Survive! 6 Degrees of Separation goes to 0!

It began as a normal day. I flew to Brazil and when I landed, I Foursquared, Tweeted and Facebooked as I headed off to meet my partners and clients.  And when I finished, I would fly off to meet the CEO of one of my top clients! This was going to be a superb day!

But then a life-changing event occurred. With a bit of water, cobblestones and bad luck, I fell while heading up a ramp. When I saw people running toward me, I knew something was not right. I could not move my left side and was panicked because all I heard was Brazilian Portuguese. Employees at my hotel called for a doctor.  IBMers and others tried to assist and get me to the right hospital, but after four hours I was in intense pain with massive blood loss.

I was afraid and alone. I was scared, very scared. I have had few accidents in my life but before this, they all happened around my family.

But that was about to change.

My new family emerged…and rose up out of social networks, both online and in the real world. First, a colleague of mine came to ride with me to the hospital. I called my parents and husband. When I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted by three local IBM colleagues who gladly helped interpret and relay my needs, including the biggest at the time — pain killer, please!!!!

I broke two toes, my left rib,  and my femur — the biggest bone in the body. I also lost about 1.5 liters of blood. (They say shock sets in at 2L.) The surgery occurred the next day and went amazingly well. And yes, I do have a long recovery of about three months ahead of me (with no travel — ouch!).  But enough about the blood and gore…

This amazing story is about the people!

Let me start with the surgeon. strong>His name is Dr Jose Sergio Franco. He is a top-rated surgeon in Brazil and was a miracle worker for me. He did emergency surgery the day after the accident and did an amazing job. My doctor in New York said it was one of the best jobs he had ever seen — better than 95% of the surgeries for like injuries in the U.S. But Jose was more. He was my cheerleader, my comforter, and my hero.
He came to see me daily and encouraged me to hang in there (said of course in the Brazilian way) even though my family wasn’t nearby. I would not be where I am without him.

The IBM Nurse Dottie Robinson, who is based in New York, immediately jumped on the phone with me time and time again to advise, reassure and ensure that I was being taken care of. With bravery and compassion, she saw to it that I was cared for in the best possible way in a foreign land. She helped me get from Brazil back home. (This part was fun: medical evac plane to San Paulo to 10-hour flight through ambulances — and bigger cars to ensure my health at every step of the way!).  She more than did her job. She extended her heart to me like I was her very own family.

Our IBM Brazil Team was amazing. Fabio Pinto de Britto rode with me to the airport and got me that much-needed pain killer. His brother Djlama flew in from Mexico to make sure I was okay and worked through getting my husband a visa in four hours (a record!). Isabella Costa argued on my behalf to get me an English-speaking nurse, and offered to stay with me through the night. And Flavio de Figueiredo Mendes rushed over to the hospital immediately after returning from 40 days in China. The heart of this team, their care and their compassion moved me beyond belief. They came to visit every day while I was there — they were transparent, helpful, thoughtful … and as I learned, truly Brazilian in their actions. I can never repay them!

Back in the States, IBM HR Executive Leader Yara Saad was also amazing. As many of you know, I was recently placed in a new role as General Manager and new HR support. But since I had bragged so much about the support Yara had provided to me in my previous role, my husband called Yara when I was injured. Despite this “not being her job,” she worked my services, my flights, and my recovery as if it was her own. She is such an incredible and talented woman with so much on her plate. I was honored and deeply touched with the time and heart she spent helping me.

My husband Todd was of course his normal self. His giving personality came through and he was in Brazil within 48 hours. I could not have done any of this without him. No questions asked. He is a keeper!

My IBM Assistant Megan Mennonna has always been a blessing to me — but on this occasion, she went above and beyond. She and Becky Michel covered the meetings, and handled the top items that we needed covered. She is such a great friend and colleague.

Also, I have to say that I already knew IBM was a great company but this experience made me realize that it is a SUPERB company that cares and shows it!

Now, combine these in-person friends that I know with my blogosphere friends. From Facebook, I received messages from Africa, Turkey, U.S., Australia, India and more. More than 10 bouquets of flowers came to my hospital room. Candies and teas from around the world were also delivered. I had hundreds of check-up posts as well as calls that crossed the social bridge from the blogosphere to the real world. These friends crossed global boundaries, and included partners, clients, IBMers and more.

It made me realize that I never could have survived without my social networks. Six degrees of separation became closer than a family. I will always remember the kindness of all my friends!