AV People: Dave Bright of Kramer Electronics

On June 13th, 2012, Dave Bright and his wife Debbie celebrated 36 years of marriage. Wedding anniversaries have always fallen at a, well, busy time of year for Dave… the InfoComm show. Every few years or so, Debbie flies out to Vegas to spend time with Dave during the show and their anniversary.

However, most friends and colleagues of Dave would never have known that just 18 years earlier, things were a lot different for Dave and Debbie.

Eighteen years ago, while running Mitsubishi’s ProAV division, Dave’s wife Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, their children were 8 and 10 years old.

Doctors told Debbie that her diagnosis was a textbook case and everything would be just fine. Debbie was being treated at New York Hospital and Cornell Medical Center by the best doctors in the world. In fact, Debbie was being treated in the same hospital, at the same time, by the SAME doctor as Jackie Onassis. So yeah, you could say they had the best doctor in the world.

Everything went as expected. No chemo was needed; no surgery was needed — only some radiation. Shortly thereafter, Debbie was cancer free and back to life as normal.

Four years later, things were a different story.

Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again. And this time it wasn’t textbook.

Dave had just left Mitsubishi to start Kramer U.S. He had a little office with two other employees. And his wife was diagnosed with cancer again.

“It was pretty tough going back and forth to the doctors and second opinions and all that stress,” said Dave. “I had a couple really good people working for me at the time and people in place to take care of things — so it made things much easier for me to be able to work, take care of my kids, and ultimately, Debbie.”

The doctors told Debbie her chances of survival were low — really low. With regular chemotherapy, her prognosis was about a 15 to 20 percent chance of five-year survival. With a relatively new, and extremely risky, stem cell transplant, the doctors felt odds could go up to 30 percent. 30 percent to survive five more years at the age of 45.

With the exception of a few close family members, Dave and Debbie kept the severity of the diagnosis very private. Very few people even new Debbie was sick let alone how sick. Their own children didn’t even know how sick she was.

“It was a really scary time,” recalled Dave. “We decided, however, that with her chances of survival being so low, we opted to go for the extreme and risky court — the stem cell transplant and high dose chemo. That course, in and of itself, almost killed her.”

“It was a conscious decision to not let people know how serious Debbie’s prognosis was,” said Dave. “Debbie had to rely on me, but we knew we had the best doctors doing everything they could. Everyone else had so much going on and our kids were so young, that this was the last thing we wanted to lay on them.”

Debbie was quarantined for a month. Only Dave could visit her. After doctors performed the stem cell transplant and blood transfusions, any germs could have killed her, even a common cold.

The treatment worked. It did take several months before she was home and Debbie still had to endure months of chemo and a double mastectomy, but a miracle happened. Not long after her treatment, stem cell transplant, and double mastectomy — Debbie was cancer free. Fourteen years later, Debbie is still cancer free.

Understandably, the whole ordeal was very difficult for Dave and Debbie. “It completely affected our lives, but a lot of good came from the situation, also,” said Dave. “Since then, Debbie has mentored other women through the process. She kept copious notes of everything — how she felt, what medicines she took, side effects, second opinions. The works. And she remains dedicated to charitable organizations like St. Jude’s and Susan G. Komen.”

As a family, the Brights have also learned to take everything in stride and not to sweat the small stuff. “It was such a hectic period of time that I learned what mattered. And I couldn’t allow myself to get stressed out over my personal life for both my kids sake and my new business. And vice versa,” said Dave. “My wife and kids needed me. And my company needed me. And hopefully as Kramer has grown, I’ve hired people with that same mentality. Therefore, I think we’re a laid back, easy going company who cares about the lives of our employees and our customers. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’re growing so fast. We’re very open and service oriented. I like to think people like to do business with us.”

Dave calls the Kramer employees a big family. They take care of and serve each other. They work well together. They coordinate surprises for each other.

In fact, on Dave and Debbie’s 25th wedding anniversary, not too long after Debbie’s second fight with cancer, Debbie flew out to spend time with Dave at InfoComm for their anniversary.

Well, Clint Hoffman about 20 other Kramer staff members, including people from all over the world, organized a vow renewal ceremony for Dave and Debbie, at the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas. In front of their work family, Debbie was escorted down the aisle by a short, 98-pound Elvis. That short, 98-pound Elvis sang their vows and asked, “Do you Debbie, take this hunka hunka burnin’ love, Dave, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

And Dave said yes — over and over again, he said yes to the woman he loves and that he had been through so much with.

Everyone was left “Crying in the Chapel” — but for good reason.

And that is what it’s all about.

Dave and Debbie want to encourage everyone to support breast cancer research. Medical treatments have come so far since Debbie’s experience and advances are happening every day. It’s working. To find a charity so you can help support breast cancer research, visit http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=497

Molly Stillman is the director of marketing and new business development for rAVe [Publications]. Reach her at molly@ravepubs.com