What Happens When Trust Is Shattered

This is the first in a three part series on trust.

“My father was eight years old when he lost his left arm,” the successful entrepreneur said. It was our first meeting, and I wanted to know a little about his family background.

“Was it an accident?” I asked.

“My grandfather took my dad to the hospital because he had an uncontrollable fever. It turned out to be scarlet fever. They gave him a transfusion and somehow cut off blood flow to the lower part of his arm. By the time they discovered their mistake, it was too late. They had to amputate,” he explained.

Later in the conversation, I asked what his grandfather did for a living.

He said, “My grandfather was never the same again. He was an immigrant who trusted in his new country and its medical services. Now he didn’t know who to trust. After his son lost his arm, he could not function. By age 30, he was committed to a home.”

“Why?” I asked.

“My grandfather was a blue collar worker. He thought his son’s life was over. How would his son ever have a normal life? He wouldn’t be able to find work with one arm.

“From my grandfather’s perspective, what work would his son do? If he couldn’t work, then he would never marry and have a family. I guess he just lost hope,” he said.

“What about your dad?” I asked.

“He went on and graduated from college and then from law school. He was on track with a great career, and then it ended.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Scarlet fever had damaged his heart. He knew it, my mom knew it, but my dad wouldn’t submit to a doctor’s care. He just couldn’t trust anyone in the healthcare system.

“Then while giving a presentation, he had a heart attack and died right there in front of the room. He was thirty-three.”


After our meeting, I just couldn’t stop thinking about his grandfather and his dad. Two men who had so much to offer, but their trust in the system was breached.

Because of their experience, they adopted an attitude of mistrust. Not trusting led to personal destruction early in life for both of them.

The limit of our success is defined by our ability to trust.

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