For six years my father had battling congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and was going to require surgery to increase his chances of survival. In 2009, I requested time off from work to go down to Texas to be with him and take care of him, but I was only allowed to take four unpaid days. I went to Texas and took my dad to the hospital, but the time I had with him was too short and very shortly after I had to board a bus for a 12 hour ride back to Colorado, back to my job, back to bills, and back to my 45-65 hour work week. My dad went into surgery and instead of being by his side where I should have been, I was forced to be at work wondering the entire time how the surgery was going, and if my dad was ok. As the week went by, my father was not getting any better and I was at work trying to make hard medical decisions over the phone instead of being next to him at the hospital discussing his medical options with the doctors. On top of the anguish of not being able to take care of my dad when he needed me most, the four days of unpaid time had its own economic consequences for me. I fell behind on my car payment and couldn’t pay my light bill.
That Friday June 19th changed everything. Instead of being at my father’s bedside I was at work when I got the call at 4:00pm from his doctor telling me he wasn’t going to make it, and to ask me if I wanted to take my father off life support. I had to make a choice about ending my father’s life while sitting at work instead of being at his side during his last moments of life. As I sat at work waiting for my shift to end so I could go to Texas and make arrangements, all I could think about was my father being alone as he took his final breath while I was 1,000 miles away. No one was ever sent to relieve me from work, and they left me at the store to do my closing duties as a manager before I was allowed to leave. It was 10 pm before I left the store to go home and pack for my 12 hr drive back to Texas.
That day was the turning point for me. I made the decision that if I ever worked for a another company I would find an employer that would support me in taking the time I needed to spend with my family, or to take time off should I need it to deal with my own health and medical issues. After everything, I often wonder how many other people just like me and my family have had to make the impossible decision to take time off of work to care for a sick family member, or be at work in order to have enough money to pay bills, purchase food for a family, and keep the lights on. I truly believe that having Family and Medical Leave Insurance would bring true peace of mind to all families, so no one ever has to make the difficult decision of being able to care for their family and worrying that the bills won’t be able to be paid.