The October That Wasn't
Things were really looking up for PreppComm in late September 2021. We were planning on a booth at the Panhandle Preparedness Expo here in Bonner County, and working on a great new product that we planned to release in November. We were moving ahead with some marketing plans and entering new market channels. We anticipated a significant increase in sales from all of this by year’s end.
And then disaster struck. First, our assembler and tech team both got COVID. That put them down for a mere two weeks, and of course stopped production at PreppComm. Then there was a week vacation for their 10 year anniversary.
We presented our booth and products at the Expo, and were awaiting our assembly/tech team return when both my wife and I got sick. Thus, we enter the October that Wasn’t. There was no PreppComm in October, 2021.
The problem was, we did not think it was COVID. Big mistake. We had in our hands HCQ and AZ, zinc, etc., but did not use it until we were very sick. Well, you know the story about early treatment. Not.
I am sure the HCQ must have been somewhat helpful even being late — more so for my wife than for me. I got pneumonia along with the COVID. I was so weak that we had to have a police officer from across the street come and lift me off the floor- - I could not get up.
Fortunately, our assembly/tech team recommended getting an oximeter, and we discovered (or should I say, my wife discovered) my O2 levels were in the 60’s and 70’s. I was close to death. Conferring with our pharmacist, who had begun providing IVM as well, we called 911 and an ambulance arrived and put me on O2, and took me to the ER.
Naturally, the ER was overloaded, so they really did not want to keep me. They tested me (positive for COVID), they did a chest x-ray (pneumonia), and sent me home with some O2. Being as harried as they were, they did not tell us how to use the machine, only to set it to 2 liters of O2 per minute.
Well, that was not nearly enough oxygen as indicated by the oximeter, so more calls to doctors and we turned it up to 5.5 liters per minute. Wow, was I in trouble! My lungs were really wiped out, and I was needing a lot of O2 just to keep up to a reasonable level. At that point, I was so weak, I had to use a wheelchair to get around, and my O2 level would drop into the 70’s after wheeling down the hall from the bedroom to the bathroom. I had to sit for a few minutes and breathe hard to get it back up.
The oximeter became my best friend. My insurance company and doctor got me a home nurse, physical therapist, and occupational therapist to help me recover. They taught me all kinds of breathing techniques to rebuild my ability to breathe. I made small, incremental progress, but it seems to take forever.
Meanwhile, orders are coming in due to some great YouTube videos, and we can’t do anything but watch them pile up. OK, well, I could sit and work on emails, so I sat at my iPad at the kitchen table, and answered requests from our customers regarding when their product would ship.
Our policy —stated on our website — is to ship within five business days. So, one by one, either by phone or by email, each of our customers asked about their order. And I explained that we were shut down for over seven weeks, but planned to open the factory on November 4, and that I believed we could ship all back orders that week and the next.
The response from the customers was truly inspiring. We did not lose a single order —at least by the time I write this (November 14). It turned out that we were more impaired getting started than expected, so we only filled about 2/3 of the back orders in the first two weeks, and of course new orders continued to come in, as well. We were also fighting a supply base problem with a shipment of solar panels, which made it impossible to ship all of the GO Bags ordered.
Anyway, we had incredible support -- promises of prayers, encouragement to take our time and get better, that they would wait, that they understood, and don’t worry, we will keep our order, etc. Even phone calls. One from Athens, Greece! Even offers for technical support for future product development! I was truly amazed and blown away!
We finally DID open the factory on November 4, but of course not me doing any assembly, testing, packaging, or shipping (although I did print the shipping labels). I spent a lot of time talking (via email mostly) with the customers, and dealing with special cases, which seemed to abound. And we had a fair number of international orders: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, Canada, and more (I can’t remember all of them). While most of our orders are US-based, we see a growing number from the international scene.
Startup was rough for a number of reasons: our inventory was out of control, we all forgot stuff after seven weeks, even me. I had a hard time remembering how to set up the frequency counter, for example. I could not find my magnifying glass, and could not read the dials. After lots of button presses, it worked as expected.
We instituted a new test that went sideways. We have since given up on that. There was just a lot of stuff that got in the way of sheer production, so our production rate was probably about half normal. It was still suppressed the week of November 11, 12 as well, but I think hopefully we will be almost back to normal from a production point of view next week.
I am still on O2. Here I am, sitting at my computer, with my ragdoll cat. Both Sandy (my wife) and I are still struggling with weakness, but there is progress daily. Maybe another month before we are back to normal? Dunno. It has been a true nightmare.
Being snatched from the jaws of death back to life has given me a new perspective on things, as well. I thank God every day for giving me another day on Earth. My relationship with Jesus in me is the best it has ever been. I could talk your ear off on what I have learned through this process!
So they say that now I have “natural immunity” against COVID. Gee, I hope so, it came at a terrible cost. I don’t think we would have made it without the help of our local pharmacist, who provided massive doses of IVM to kill off the virus, and provided other support as well. And the ER for prescribing O2. And of course, my new doctor, my home nurse and other assistants, wow, I am truly blessed. I even got electrical acupuncture from the occupational therapist! That was truly amazing!
Anyway, PreppComm has survived, returned to life after the October that Wasn’t, and maybe in a little while we can get back to our new product development efforts, our additional sales channel, and additional marketing, as well as completing an internal “re-org” that hopefully will give me more time for engineering…We hope.
For all of you customers out there that actively supported us during our hour of need, thank you from the bottom of my heart!