Steven Peuschel OAM - RIP
Executive Director, Senior Vice President
Andreas Fouras Euology
I had a very deep and special relationship with Steve. I loved him like a brother. I point this out, not to set myself apart, but because Steve formed deep and special relationships with all of us here and no doubt with countless more.
If you can indulge me, I want to make my words today as much as possible Steve’s words through stories of how Steve touched my life. Some of this is as deep and true as Steve, but some of it will be silly and funny because that’s what he would have wanted.
I had the great fortune to convince Steve to join 4Dx just a little under three years ago – although when I counted that out, I was sure I was wrong, it felt like it must have been so many more – so deep was Steve’s impact on 4Dx as a business, as a community and on me personally.
I learnt a lot from Steve.
Steve’s life taught that life is not about the hand of cards you are dealt, but how you play them. That’s not to say Steve wasn’t about winning. Steve always wanted to win – he hated losing, and that hate of losing was a big drive that led him to win so often. Even as much as he hated losing, he often found a funny or positive edge to difficult circumstances.
This brings me to the story of how I met Steve.
Three years ago, before Steve, 4Dx was a much smaller and more fragile company, scouring for investors, which led me to meet all kinds of people. One such person wanted to spend hours and hours talking to me – and it cost me countless lunches and coffees to discover that there was no prospect of him ever writing a cheque. Back at that time, this would ordinarily be a disastrous waste of time and energy – but not on this occasion, because this gentleman told me about a game of tennis he had played with a very special person, whom I should maybe meet. Not for the first or last time Steve managed to grab a win out of the makings of a hopeless loss.
For me, that is such a quintessential Steve story. Steve like to win and had a habit of creating wins. But also, Steve always knew someone and someone always knew Steve. That wasn’t an accident – that was how Steve worked and lived. He worked so hard to meet people, to reach out to them as fellow human beings, to get to know them, and once people knew Steve they wanted to be part of whatever he was doing.
Steve and I had some great times on the road. Steve was always a huge asset on roadshows and other travel. Not only because of what he got done, but also because of the humour he brought with him. If I could, I would have taken Steve on every single trip. While travel wasn’t easy for Steve, he never shied away from it because it was hard on him.
On one occasion, Steve and I were with another co-worker in Singapore. The humidity was extreme – and so much worse than any day in Melbourne. With the walking we were doing, going from meeting to meeting, Steve started to complain of chaffing around his underpants. He could see I found it slightly off-putting, meaning he had found a way (as he always did) to convert what might be seen as unfortunate circumstances into humour. However, I have to admit, after a while, I eventually had enough and I made an effort to ban further conversation about his underpants – his derps. Because of this, I was pleased when Steve suggested that a change of clothes might reduce his symptoms – as I hoped that would get me a win with a change of topic. Later on, Steve started again – and I tried to cut him off – saying we agreed no more conversation about derps – in turn he cut me off and said, “but I’ve taken them off!”
As I said earlier, I really feel that Steve and I shared a special bond. Some of that came from how different we were. We came together from such tremendously different backgrounds, different methods of thinking. But we also had quite a lot in common, from big things like our philosophy, to little things like a love of vanilla milkshakes. Steve was a quintessential rooster of an Aussie male. Many of you might think that craving vanilla milkshakes more than beer might not fit within that image. But my proof comes again in a travel story with Steve, and how on one occasion, on a long hot day in Hong Kong, Steve got such a craving. Now you might also imagine that given the impact of lactose intolerance on the local milkshake industry, milkshakes might be hard to find in Hong Kong – and you would be right! However, Steve had us walking up and down the streets of Hong Kong until we finally found a boutique ice cream store. It ended up costing him $25 to get that milkshake, but the look on Steve’s face as he drank made it obvious that it was well worth it.
Steve was eminently likeable, but he also commanded respect. My respect for Steve will never diminish. It’s hard not to respect how Steve carried himself, how he played the game of life with passion, conviction and a smile, despite the fact that the cards he kept being dealt would seem to so many of us as simply not fair. But what I want to talk to you about today is Steve’s courage. An incredible mountain of courage.
I wanted to share with you two dictionary definitions of courage. (1) “the ability to do something that frightens you”, (2) “strength in the face of pain or grief”. Isn’t that just Steve?
“The ability to do something that frightens you.”
In the world of business – the ability to do something frightening is a rare and valuable condition. Of course, it doesn’t pay to ignore risks, it pays to weigh them, to measure them and then to act. But, weighing and measuring lets you know what you’re in for – it only adds to the fear. When asked to take the leap – Steve never hesitated – never relented to the fear of not making the other side. I was regularly asking Steve to do things he had never done before, not only asking him to try something new, to step way outside of his comfort zone, but to do that under tremendous pressure. I know that Steve felt the fear. Not so often, but every now and then, we would talk about the fear, hopefully by naming it, making its hold on us a little less. But regardless of the fear, he stepped up with class, with style, and quite a bit of mongrel to do what was needed.
Now to the second definition of courage, “Strength in the face of pain or grief.”
While I have only known Steve for a short while, I know that this was always Steve. Steve told me that at 7 he was told he might not make it to 10, and that at 21 the thought of living to 45 was a fantasy. The pain and grief from that is hard to imagine. But for me the clincher is the conversations I had with Steve over the past six weeks.
When Steve told me that he had stage 4 cancer, it was clear to me, that in a millisecond Steve had moved on from thinking of his pain, his grief, his loss and he was already onto thinking of how he could help everyone else.
Steve had an endless list of tasks that he was onto like a bulldog: after taking care of his family and his affairs Steve wanted to take care of a whole raft of issues at work – taking care of this, reminding the team to look into that, contacting consultants and investors. And in a way even more courageous and generous was that through all of it Steve was asking if we were ok.
Only when he felt like he had taken care of all of us, did Steve engage in the luxury of talking about how it was for him. I was very fortunate to chat with Steve the Friday before last. We talked things big and small – we even had a few laughs. Those laughs will be something I treasure till the end of my days. We spoke about how crap the circumstances were, we spoke about how disappointed Steve was about the things he would miss – like how we would miss the chance to stand together and ring the bell on the day 4Dx goes public. But classic Steve, and in text-book courage, told me that he loved me and told me to ring it twice as hard. “Smash it”, he said.
So, although I will miss Steve, although I mourn the loss of what will not be, I want to celebrate what we did have. I want to celebrate the contributions Steve has made: to me, to 4Dx, to healthcare, to our whole community. Those touches, those contributions are permanent, they will not fade.
Greg Snell Eulogy
Steven Peuschel was a remarkable man, father and Australian. He was born with Cystic Fibrosis, which in turn led to lung failure and it was at this time I first met him. Personally experiencing severe life-threatening disability, and then the transformation that organ transplantation can make, Steve refocussed his life with the target of improving the health of others.
In 2002, pre transplant, Steve was a public advocate for organ donation and transplantation- speaking at over 30 meetings despite being ill and disabled.
In 2003, whilst recovering from his transplant Steve became aware of potential novel ways to increase the organ donor pool to increase transplant numbers. Within weeks he had set up his own philanthropic organisation- the Lilly Foundation, and generated the first funds for this by paddling the 400km River Murray Marathon. This was incredibly heroic only weeks on from massive chest surgery- I actually thought he was mad!
Over the next few years Steve continued to talk at numerous various public, religious and Rotary meetings on organ donation and transplantation. Along the way he continued to facilitate funding for transplant projects. He brokered corporate support to employ medical staff and equipment for children’s lung transplantation through the creation of the Ronald McDonald’s House Charities. He participated in various state government health advisory committees, worked with Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation and Leadership Plus’ (Victoria’s largest advocacy agency for people with disability).
In 2006 Steve was bestowed Rotary International’s prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of ‘appreciation of tangible and significant assistance for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among people of the world’.
In 2013 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for the ‘protection of the rights of people with disabilities’
Steve has educated thousands of people about organ donation. His efforts have generated funds to the tune of over $800,000, has led to 250 successful human life saving transplants across Australia. Indeed, this body of work is recognised across the world, generating numerous scientific presentations, awards and publications. He brokered ‘deals’ to help those with disability and personal difficulties- providing a plan for accommodation for country and interstate patients stranded in central Melbourne awaiting and recovering from transplantation and attempted to create an Australian Centre of Excellence in Transplantation with $1 billion from Indian and Chinese investors!!
And then there was 4DX….. an amazing idea that was an obvious fit for Steve. Andreas, Steve’s boss, didn’t stand a chance.
How do you sum this guy up!?
Steve bravely rose above his own significant personal challenges to contribute a real difference to the day-to-day existence and survival prospects of Australians disabled and terminally ill with advanced lung diseases. His down-to-earth enthusiasm and high conversion rate of ‘ideas’ into ‘reality’ amazed me. As a health professional I was inspired by Steve’s achievements. I came to see a brave, ‘outside the box thinker’ who became my friend.
Steve Rest-in- peace. You have made a big difference!