How a Lung Transplant Recipient’s Story Parallels Our Own During the Pandemic

Posted on Jun 10 2020 - 3:50pm by Paige Brown

How would you react if you learned that you needed a double-lung transplant? It's a question that's nearly impossible to answer and one that you will hopefully never have to. However, for Mike Germain, broker/owner of RE/MAX Team 1 Realty in Somerset, Wis., he responded with grace and calm.

Similarly to how many agents and brokers have had to react in the midst of COVID-19, while Germain and his wife Michelle prepared for his transplant, they were forced to put his health before the health of their business. They downsized, realizing quickly how little anything else mattered compared to his health, they told RISMedia.

Here, Germain explains how he came out on top following his transplant—a journey detailed in a recent book written by him and Michelle entitled "Because He Believed"—and the lessons that other real estate professionals can take from it as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis: 

How are the decisions you made concerning your business during your own health crisis similar to the ones you're making now?

My health crisis began in 2011, when I found out that I would need a double-lung transplant. I quickly learned that nothing else in life matters if you don't have your health. As I prepared for the transplant, I had to prioritize my health over my brokerage. I was forced to make tough business decisions in the process, including downsizing my team. Despite these difficult choices, upon my eventual return to real estate, I was pleased with the decisions that I had made, as they allowed both me and my brokerage to weather the storm.

Amid the pandemic, several brokerage owners are faced with the same decisions that I had to make five years ago. Many owners will have to toe the line between protecting their business and their health. If anything, my experience is proof that prioritizing both is possible. Since my transplant in 2015, I have rebuilt my life, my career and my office.

Determination, perseverance and faith are what pulled me through my health crisis and put me back on the road to real estate success. Today, we will rely on those same pillars with hopes of coming out the other end stronger and better than ever before.

In what other ways did your own experience parallel the current global crisis?

One of the biggest parallels between the current global crisis and my personal health crisis is social distancing. There were several risks I had to keep in mind prior to my transplant surgery, including a decreased immune system that made me more susceptible to viruses.  Today, immunocompromised people are facing the same risk, and many are challenged to protect themselves and those around them by staying at home. 

The pandemic has changed everyone's lives, and we live in a new reality guided by social distancing regulations. For me, this "new normal" actually feels familiar. The world is getting a glimpse of what my family's life was like five years ago. Like what everyone is experiencing now, it was an unsettling time for us, but we were able to make it through as a result of our strong support system, unwavering determination and commitment to our faith.

Additionally, even after my recovery, we were still required to practice significant social distancing measures to ensure my own health. As a result, myself and my team have been long prepared to transition our business to a more contactless system. 

What would your advice be to other real estate professionals who are navigating the pandemic?

At a time like this, it's easy to lose sight of your purpose. When you're used to conducting business in person—participating in regular face-to-face activities, etc.—a change like we are all experiencing can be difficult to deal with and could make one reconsider their careers. For me, what helped me through my own crisis, was my passion for real estate. Right now, I urge others to hold on tight to that passion as it will anchor you and guide you through this challenging business climate.

Additionally, it's important that you embrace change in order to continue providing clients with the best service possible. If that means adapting to new technologies and obeying social distancing orders, then do so. Protect those you love, live in the moment and respect others.

Remember that you're not in this alone. During my own health battle, I had support from other local brokerages, including my former business partner Jim Henry, and the RE/MAX INTEGRA network. Having recognized my value throughout my 30-plus years as an owner, the brand's Midwest regional office reached out to help. They provided support to my family until my brokerage was operational again. Their commitment to me, my family and my brokerage speaks volumes to what the franchise stands for: family. Amid the pandemic, we've again chosen to follow RE/MAX INTEGRA's lead as they help their brokerages adjust to the new way of business.


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