Elon Musk Was Near Death After Doctors Made the Wrong Diagnosis

Elon Musk is synonymous with Tesla. The CEO is the face of the innovative EV maker. He’s also a tad controversial and has some odd views about things. Besides his unique take on baby names, he also usually avoids going on vacation. You might be shaking your head in disbelief, but he has a (sort of) good reason.

Elon Musk’s rise to Tesla’s star

Born in South Africa, Elon Musk made his way from South Africa to Canada and then to the U.S., where he attended the University of Pennsylvania. He was also accepted into a Ph.D. program and attended Stanford University — for two days. But that actually worked out pretty well for him. He started as a dot-com millionaire and eventually became a multibillionaire.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, worth about $74 billion per Forbes, and joined Tesla in 2004, with a current market cap of about $683 billion, Forbes reports. Although Musk didn’t found Tesla, he contributed the most toward initial development and owns the highest percentage of shares. 

Why Elon Musk doesn’t like taking time off

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So, what reason does Musk have for not wanting to take time off? Well, according to a CNBC interview, they’ll kill you. OK, we’ll unpack that in a minute. He has said he doesn’t think his employees should be working extra-hard if he’s running off on vacations. Musk works a ton of hours and has a very hands-on approach, even admitting in an interview with CBS to sleeping on the factory floor in 2018 when Tesla Model 3 production was behind. He claimed he did that because he didn’t have time to go home and shower.

But in addition to his hardcore work ethic, bad things happen to Musk while on vacation. In 2000, on his honeymoon, he found out that the board of X.com had pushed him out as CEO. Additionally, the last two times he tried to take a week off, several rockets exploded. One of them was the deadly 2014 crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. The other incident involved Musk’s own rockets. Plus, something even worse happened to him on vacation.

The disease that almost killed him

Musk’s view that vacations can kill you isn’t that far-fetched given his experience. He said he almost died after returning home from one vacation. After having to end his first honeymoon abruptly due to the X.com shenanigans, he and his first wife tried again later that year. So they went to South Africa. That’s where Musk contracted malaria. And the most severe form at that.

According to Musk, he was also misdiagnosed, first at Stanford Hospital and then at Sequoia Hospital. He wrote on Twitter that he was “~36 hours from being unrecoverable,” and a visiting doctor from San Jose General recognized his symptoms as malaria and treated him in time. Interestingly, 20 years later, this story resurfaced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, once again causing controversy regarding shelter-in-place orders, among other things.

Even after these less-than-enjoyable vacations and his philosophy that they kill you, he took at least two personal trips that apparently went off without a hitch, one to Chile and one to Australia, with his then-girlfriend, actor Amber Heard. So maybe he has gotten past his vacation aversion? Maybe he realized that vacations don’t kill you and that they’re actually an excellent idea.