Health comes first

I can’t remember where I heard it exactly, but for a long time, I’ve been embracing this expression with my immediate circle “even if you had $1 billion dollars, if you don’t have your health then that money has no value”. Infact to be a little more precise with the expression “health” represents the number 1 at the beginning of that $1 billion. Because without that 1, you are left with a series of zero.

So, you’ve got nothing if you don’t have your health. It's that simple. People often think of being healthy in their pockets and they underestimate the value. Whereas every breath we take, every smell we perceive, every music we listen to, every taste we receive has value. Healthy people are those that can enjoy life.

The general trend is that people tend to look after themselves once they’ve lost their health. They then start to look at life from another angle. I've experienced this over and over again, and I've seen it in my immediate circle too.


Examples from my surroundings

My first example is the situation with my father. In 2003 my father got cancer. After cancer was diagnosed, he called me and asked “Serhan, I would like to consider alternative therapies to my cancer treatment, would you research which is the best institute in the US for this?”. Based on the research, I found two institutions: MD Anderson in Houston and Sloan Kettering in New York. The fact that both centres were cancer-oriented hospitals, the success rate they provided in the treatments, the resources they devoted to R & D, the high success rates in cancer treatments and the use of the best methods enabled me to consider these as the final options. Once I re-evaluated them against the required criteria, MD Anderson was one step ahead, so I then advised my father that the cancer centre that he needed to go for treatment was MD Anderson. He then asked me, "Can you help organise this process?”. I was more than happy to organise this and went to America with him. There are many anecdotes of the things we experienced here. I would like to share one with you: the doctor who operated on my father was of Armenian origin and the physician who wrote and applied the chemotherapy prescription was of Greek origin. One day during an examination with both of them there, my father made a joke and said “I’m done for” in which I remember put everyone in the room into a laughing fit. Even in the hardest of times, we need to remember to laugh. In this sense, I highly appreciate the Gulmek (laughter) Healing Association. I recommend that you visit their website when you have a moment:

After the many years of treatment, my father wanted to return to his country because he was really over being abroad. He wanted me to find a hospital and a doctor who could apply the chemotherapy treatment as done in America back home. I then found Dr. Nil Molinas from the American Hospital in Istanbul. They continued the treatment very successfully and after years of treatment, my father was finally healed, thank God. After our treatment process, the American Hospital in Turkey signed a cooperation agreement with the MD Anderson Hospital and started to work together to facilitate these kinds of situations. This was a very pleasing development.

All the hospitals that I found, the doctors, and the way we handled this process were very much in place. Instead of using other methods and hospital preferences with indifferent treatment suggestions, my father chose to take the path that I drew for him and improved his health this way. This makes me truly happy and at peace.


Adventurous Omer’s accident

As the second example, I will tell you about the accident that my childhood friend Omer had experienced 4-5 years ago. My friend Omer from Fethiye who loved adrenalin, was a friend who always took the sport he did to another level. For example, we all did sports like water ski, mono and wake board. Omer would take water skiing to the extreme by doing it barefoot (barefoot water skiing). And as far as I know, about 10 years ago he started to take interest in parachuting. After he started his airplane jumps, he received special training in the US and advanced to such a level that that he started to do stunt acrobatics as a professional. In one of the jumps in America, the Red Bull America team were doing jumps and their landing style took so much to his interest that he decided to go and try and do what they did. When he attempted to do an acrobatic move from a height of about 45 meters, as there wasn’t enough distance while doing it (hook turn), the open parachute travelling at 70 km per hour speed slapped him to the ground. It was a miracle he was alive. As he landed on his legs, his bones were grinded down to almost powder like. He had many many surgeries. He went through a lot of rehabilitation over the years. He finally managed to get back on his feet. Beyond walking, he then started to do sport again. Of course, he no longer does extreme sports like the parachute. He was in the end able to realise that this passion could have been the one thing to end his life.

Just recently, Omer found the woman of his life and got married. For someone who turned their life around from such a battle and continued to fight to live, I wish Omer eternal happiness with his family.


Talks about marriage and its surprising effect 

As the third example, I would like to share with you the story of my university friend Thomas. Thomas, who was half German and half French, was one of my closest friends while I was studying at McGill University in Canada. Beyond his perspectives of life, his cheerfulness, and with his charitability, Thomas was a friend who was loved by everyone especially by those who were part of the Turks in Montreal platform. Infact, he even got engaged to a Turkish girl who I had introduced to him. Thereafter, they went their own ways and got married to other people. I had written about Thomas in my blog about six years ago. In order to remind you, here it is again:

At his 2018 New Year’s dinner with his family, Thomas was unconscious and hospitalised after eating oysters. His situation got a lot more serious and he then went into a coma. After spending 3 weeks in a coma, his mother went ahead and called all of Thomas’ close friends and asked them to come. We all got together at the hospital in Düsseldorf. Then, that day, a miracle happened.

We were talking about marriage in the hospital room amongst ourselves. Thomas, who had just recently divorced, gave his first reaction while we were chatting and moved his arm after 3 weeks of being in a deep coma. Suddenly we stopped talking and looked at Thomas and inevitably we all broke out into laughter; it was an incredible moment. The interesting thing is that Thomas had shown his first reaction to the topic of marriage which he was really sensitive about. This has been a joke amongst us since.

One week after his initial reaction, Thomas woke and started to get better with speed. He now continues to live in Germany in great health. I had asked Thomas if during the time of being in a coma, he was able to feel us being there or even hear what we were talking about. He had said, “I don’t remember much, but it sounded like I had heard all your voices in my dream”.

A photo with taken with Thomas some time ago


Another unfortunate accident

Another example involves our young friend Alaattin, who started working with us through the internship program that EkoRE initiated with ITU and became one of our important project engineers within 2-3 years. In May of this year he moved from our company to another energy company. While he was working on a roof installation for that energy firm in August, he actually fell head first on the floor from the roof. He went into a serious coma.

He had undergone massive brain surgery. Afterwards, he stayed in the intensive care unit for 1 month in the Celal Bayar University hospital in Manisa. Another interesting thing happened when I coincidentally also visited him during the third week of his coma. His mother recorded my voice and walked into his room and played it to him. At this point, Alaattin opened and closed his eyes and gave his mother his first reaction since being in the coma. Then, with the permission of his mother, I went inside. When I started talking to Alaattin, he gave me two reactions. He moved his head and moved his foot from left to right. After these first serious signals, Alaattin woke up in 10 days as I had assumed. He was then removed from the intensive care unit and transferred to Istanbul. These days, he is rapidly recovering in a rehabilitation centre in Istanbul. Almost all his functions have come back.


A photo we took at the Istanbul Marathon two years ago. I am on the far right of the photo and Alaattin is next to me in the green t-shirt. I wish for our smiles to continue for the rest of our lives…


I also asked Alaattin what he remembered from being in the coma. He said he vaguely remembered some of the conversations but also remembers hearing my voice. However, as he was in a very deep sleep for most of the time in the coma, he doesn’t recall remembering much. The fact that he was able to come back to life and make a quick recovery firstly made his family but us also very happy. I wish Alaattin to reach his health in the shortest possible time and return to the engineering business in which he performed very successfully. The solar energy sector really needs young engineers like Alaattin who are qualified and do their job very well.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the case with my friend Mr Dost, who was my communication consultant and even gave me support on my blog. Mr Dost, who suddenly couldn’t make any movement, had to have two very serious operations in a row. Firstly, they had to replace his heart valve, then his spinal cord was operated on. He could've not made it in both the operations he had. Thank God he got out of both surgeries successfully and returned back to life. From here, I’d like to wish him a quick recovery and wish that from now on that he has a happy and healthy life. There's so much more together we have to do.


A photo taken with Mr Dost on the roof of our Maltepe office. We will continue to work together and achieve our plans of sustainability…


Motivation and the importance of positivity

During these times, I told Thomas and Alaattin's families and also Mr Dost who I’d knew would heal and recover, that the most important thing was to keep their morale motivation high. Thank God I was right.

As for me, I've been dealing with five different health problems over the past year. I had an operation. Thank God the majority of the problem has been solved and I will continue to solve the rest. Whilst I’ve mentioned this, there’s also some other things I’d like to say: If there is such a thing as the evil eye and if someone has touched me with their negative energy, I am returning this negative energy back to them. I refuse their negative energies. On the other hand, my door is always open to the positive energy of my friends.

And it’s also very important to appreciate and be grateful. I am grateful for all the things that I have in life each and every morning. People generally focus on what they don't have, whereas in order to live happiness and live a positive life, it is necessary to know the value of those things we do have.

Let’s not forget that in this life cycle, we exist during a period of the universe. What kind of contributions we will make to life and how we will live a life, is all in our hands. Therefore, I would like to summarise again how I look at life.

Endowing life with meaning

  Everyone has a starting point in this life. Some of them are well-off, some are born in poverty. Nobody can choose their parents. We’re all starting from somewhere. The important thing is not where you start from, but the difference between where you began and where you finish. If you have progressed by paying it forward, then you would have lived a positive life. This should certainly not only be perceived economically. In other words, you can be a very good mother or father, you may have raised good children for the country and the world, this then means you have contributed to humanity in the best possible way. You may have served in a CSO for a long time, which also means you may have had a positive life. Of course, for all this to happen, we need to work hard and show some serious effort. There's also the fact of enjoying life. After all, we all exist for a certain time. That’s why I like to adopt the philosophy of ‘Pura Vida’ which is what the Costa Ricans live by. This philosophy literally translates as “pure life”, “the good life”, “living life to the fullest” and “positive life”.   

No matter the context in which it is used, it is a term that radiates positivity. What I understood from “positive life” as an interpretation of “Pura Vida” is this: Life is joyous only to the extent to which it is endowed with meaning. It is for this reason that we should all assume responsibility for being productive in a positive and meaningful way. 

A few weeks ago, when I met with my primary school friends on Bagdat Street, I was thinking about the lines I wrote above. I was able to come together with these people who I met 35 years ago in this life cycle. From the days where we wore short pants to the 35 years after we laid the foundations of brotherhood, it was a real pleasure for us to meet and spend time as healthy individuals, now adults, those who have family and some who have attained serious levels of experience. I hope we all spend the rest of our lives with our friends in the healthiest and happiest way. 

Take care.


NOTE: Thanks to the friends who read this article for pointing out that the expression I mentioned in the article earlier which actually belongs to Vehbi Koç. With this opportunity, we honour and remember him with our sincere condolences.


A photo taken in Primary school


A photo taken a few weeks ago in Bagdat Street from our meeting with my Primary school friends


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