Entrepreneurs

Tesla superfan with stage 4 cancer gets surprise visit from Elon Musk

Matthew Chan with Elon Musk
Courtesy Alan Miller's Facebook page
Matthew Chan with Elon Musk

Matthew Chan is a 39-year-old radiologist who lives in Sacramento, Calif., has three children and was recently diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He started radiation on Jan. 1 and "probably" has less than six months to live, according to a blog post published on Jan. 4 by a friend.

That friend, Alan Miller, was planning a visit, so he asked Chan what he wanted to do while they were together, according to a Facebook post Miller published Wednesday.

"In typical Matt fashion, he listed a bunch of boring stuff (watch Blade Runner 2049, relax on the couch after chemo, etc.). I told him that was unacceptable and he had to think bigger.

"He said, 'Well, if I could meet JB Straubel or Franz Von Holzhausen, I'd give you my next born,'" Miller wrote in a Facebook post.

JB Straubel is Tesla's chief technology officer, and Franz von Holzhausen is its lead designer. Chan owns two Teslas and is obsessed.

Chan's wish was confusing to Miller.

"I asked why he didn't say Elon Musk, the guy who is always in the news coming up with some grand idea about electric cars, rockets or tunneling under the earth. Matt's answer was very insightful," writes Miller.

Chan told Miller that "Elon is the visionary and public face of Tesla and I want to meet the man behind the man — the one who is told to get the job done and has to figure out how to do it. Because that's who I am," says Miller's Facebook post.

Miller, who went to school with Chan for 22 years and has been good friends with him for 18, had a mission. Miller posted about Chan's wish on Tesla blogs and Facebook groups.

"I am helping him with his bucket list. He is a HUGE Tesla fan and has a Model S P85D and Model X 90D. He's done his two factory tours. He has solar panels charging his Teslas and works for his local EV [electric vehicle] club. He's a total EV nut," Miller wrote of his friend on the blog, Tesla Motors Club.

Matthew Chan going for a drive with Franz von Holzhausen
Courtesy Alan Miller's Facebook page
Matthew Chan going for a drive with Franz von Holzhausen

Miller's efforts payed off.

"The Tesla community is like no other I've ever encountered. Matt had a tremendous response and outpouring of support. People who knew people were emailing and texting and facebooking," writes Miller.

"At one time I had about 50 separate conversations going and was even getting cryptic calls in the middle of the night with anonymous people calling saying, 'I can't tell you who I am, but here is JB Straubel's cell phone — only use it if you can't find any other way.'"

Miller didn't need to use it. The Tesla network helped Miller set up a day for Chan at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., which came replete with his own employee badge.

The plan was for Chan to get a tour of the Tesla factory from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., meet Straubel and Von Holzhausen from 10 to 11 a.m., and then go home.

As it turned out, Straubel had to cancel because of a last minute schedule change. But Holzhausen talked to Chan for an hour, Miller says, discussing his philosophy about designing the cars: to "make people fall in love with the car, but they not know why," Miller remembers. "It was truly a magical moment to see Matt soaking up every word Franz said."

Holzhausen offered Chan a test-drive, and as they were getting into the Tesla, Elon Musk drove up in his Model S.

Elon Musk surprising Matthew Chan
Courtesy Alan Miller's Facebook page
Elon Musk surprising Matthew Chan

"Even though Matt's dream was to meet the man behind the man, they brought out the man," writes Miller. They all talked for a few minutes and posed for pictures.

Holzhausen signed the dashboard of Chan's car and the group disbanded.

"We were all shellshocked and stood there for a few minutes trying to process what had just happened," writes Miller.

"Our driver, Rob Temmerman, who works at the Tesla showroom summed it up best when he corrected me. I said 'Wow. That was a one-in-a-million moment that we all just had,' says Miller. "Rob then said, 'No, that was one-in-a-billion moment. I've never seen anything like that.'"

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