Our dear friend and creative services director, Jerry Long, has had quite a year. Today — one heart attack, one open-heart, triple-bypass surgery, and months of recovery later — we’re happy to report that Jerry’s journey in 2019 has led to many changes for the better, for him and for JKS.
It started back in February, just days after his 47th birthday. “I left work that night and felt like I had really bad heartburn,” Jerry explains. “I couldn’t get comfortable… Thought it was the greasy food I had that day.”
The next day, the heartburn was gone, but he began to feel pain in his chest and decided to leave work early and visit an Urgent Care to get checked out. Now, if you know Jerry, you know that this in and of itself was a significant sign that something was wrong. And something was very wrong. It didn’t take long for doctors to realize that Jerry was actually having a heart attack. Once stabilized at the hospital, a heart cath revealed nearly complete blockage of vessels that would require open heart surgery.
Three days later, Jerry’s surgery was a complete success and the long, slow process of recovery began. And Jerry, who had always been so busy and focused on his work, now had to sit back and essentially do nothing, which gave him the opportunity to gain a new perspective on his faith, his family and his work.
“First of all, spiritually,” says Jerry. “My relationship with God is a whole lot better than it used to be. I have a whole different outlook on life… I got a second chance and I’m not going to blow it.”
Physically, Jerry took cardiac rehabilitation very seriously. Exercise, diet and lifestyle all had to be overhauled. With help from his doctors and cardiac rehab team, he got the physical and mental guidance he needed. “I went from working all the time to doing nothing… It drove me crazy,” adds Jerry.
So far, he has lost 86 pounds, works out five times a week and eats sensibly. However, the shift in priorities and perspective have made the biggest difference.
“Now I do things lot more in our church and the food bank in Stokesdale… And my wife is enjoying me being around more,” he says. “Everything has changed around in my life.”
Back at work since May 1st, Jerry’s ordeal has led to some positive changes in the culture at JKS, as well. As Jerry recovered, his JKS family rallied behind him and stepped up to keep producing high-quality work for our clients. And Jerry showed us all that a better balance of work and life was not only possible, but absolutely necessary.
Inspired by Jerry’s experience, we started to look at the way we were or weren’t sharing information. And while Jerry really takes his work seriously, when he went out, we were in a serious pinch.
“I was more the type of person to try to do everything myself…and that’s how our projects worked,” adds Jerry. “Now I share and delegate more to others. We also put some things in place so everyone is informed.”
Adam Graham, the youngest project leader on our creative team, stepped up to the plate when Jerry was out, taking on much more responsibility and proving that the workload could be shared with a high level of confidence. But it took the team pulling together and working through it to improve communication flow over the entire production schedule.
Jerry still loves to work. But with greater collaboration and great work coming from our entire team, he (and all of us, really) are better able to set work aside at the end of the day and get home to what truly matters.
We are extremely grateful to have Jerry back on the job. But more importantly, we are grateful to have him back healthier and happier. We’re a better, stronger family and company because of it.