Patsy Richardson - a True Comeback Story

My fifth podcast has just come out with Patsy Richardson: open brain surgery and kidney transplant survivor. If you meet her today, she is a pink-cheeked, talented property entrepreneur with a mischievous humour. She is remarkably free from many of the psychological burdens that hold us back in relaunching careers, whether or not we have faced such serious ill health.

An uplifting comeback story

We can all benefit from her lessons..we all qualify to be inspired even if our challenges don’t feel like they are on the same scale as hers. Please, listen to the podcast and feed yourself some uplifting vibes for the end of the week.

Here’s the synopsis:

Patsy was a global strategy director for a large FMCG. She was flying everywhere on business and her job was her life. No time to look after any other aspect of her life, not least her health. Patsy had polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and her kidney function had been monitored her entire life. Finally she was told to look for a kidney donor.

Patsy did the opposite of what her instinct told her, she leaned into the problem instead of running a mile from it (lesson no.1). Two friends and two family members came forward. She was blown away by what people were prepared to do for her, when she asked. However by 2012, no one was medically able to donate and she had to leave work,  to be dialysed for 8 hours a day. This was a year with no visible light at the end of the tunnel.

This native Zimbabwean learned a new level of resilience fast. She took herself out to lunch; reached out to friends and only stayed connected to those who poured into her (lesson no. 2). As we said on the podcast, “mood hoovers” were out. She fed her brain with rich books and indulged her secret passion of home design; mustering the energy each day only to watch “Homes under the Hammer”. (lesson no. 3 – honour your passions! Always!)

Meanwhile, a brain aneurysm was detected (a complication of PKD ) at the same time Patsy, had planned to cart her dialysis machine to sun and family in South Africa for Christmas. December/January 2012 was spent in London, seeking a surgeon prepared to  perform open brain surgery on a patient in kidney failure. She found one so, aneurysm dealt with, tick. But still no donor. Patsy celebrated her progress (lesson no. 4) with a celebratory lunch with friends. I was there and it was a glorious sunny pub garden event full of hope, relief and community. As so often the way; her buoyancy through this trauma attracted others like a moth to a flame.

A few months after this she was chatting to friends in her new church, explaining her fight for survival. She didn’t have the aneurysm but she still didn’t have a kidney. A new friend, Colin, instantly offered: “You know I could give you a kidney” and he was followed, two minutes later by  his wife (!!!) “I think I may be able to also”.

Miraculously, Colin came as close a match to Patsy’s DNA as a parent to a child and the transplant was performed in October 2013. Hear about this incredible story on the podcast

From Death's Door to Entrepreneur

Once she had regained full health, Patsy refused to compromise on what she filled her days with. The strategy job in the office was out. She had to do what she loved. Thinking back to her fascination as an 8 yr-old with houses and her recent obsession with Homes under the Hammer, she chose property development. She met people in the field, researched and studied. She gave herself time to put one foot in front of the other and learn a new field. This was a technique honed during her years of illness: one day at a time. Since 2015 she has found land that is unused with no planning permission. Quite a feat in metro London.  She then develops it for a profit but says she is still finding her way and developing her core strategy. Process not perfection!

Bringing Life Lessons Back to Her Career

1) On networking (vital in the property industry): she hadn’t worked for three years so she simply forced herself to get to events, tell her story and rely on people to give her a chance.

2) On resilience: she says it is innate and learned, phew! Refuse to think of yourself as a victim. She is fond of Von Moltke’s quote ”No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” i.e. you have to adapt, change tack and pivot.

3) On anxiety: she had no choice but to live in the day and go one step at a time. Even at the point when her kidney went into failure; she held onto poetic, Churchillian and bible verses that comforted her.

4) On health: treasure it. Make yourself strong! Patsy now loves pilates and weight training. Strength not skinniness gives her overall confidence and a feeling of robustness as she plays the property industry; still very much a male domain.

5) On time management: she works alone so she needs to be ultra-discliplined; chunking her days into hourly objectives and availing herself of any apps to make life easier: Mile IQ (tracks mileage from your movement), Moneydance (downloads bank accounts and helps you allocate your budget to them voila! personal budget managed) Trello (to do list) Pipedrive (project management).

Clearly, as for all of us, work-life balance is at a premium. Patsy knows that every day counts and from one Comeback Girl to another, her message is that it’s imperative to do something that makes you proud when each day counts so much. Just keep moving towards your goals, even if the effort seems microscopic against the desired result. Preaching to myself here...
How to donate organs (be sure to tell your loved ones you've done it!)

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