As a nurse in UK HealthCare's neurosurgery intensive care unit, Robin Dodd was accustomed to helping others. When her 5-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she suddenly found herself in a position of need.
She found the support she required through the generosity of her colleagues and the Shared Leave Pool.
Her son Bruce had developed symptoms including altered balance, double vision, slurred speech and a facial droop. An MRI revealed grave news: Bruce had a rare and aggressive brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Brainstem Glioma. The tumor was inoperable but could be treated with some temporary improvement through radiation therapy.
Robin's son Bruce would also require care at home. Family members frequently traveled from other states to help with taking care of the house or Robin and her husband's other two children.
"But ultimately Bruce truly needed the care of his mother," Robin said.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis, Robin's attention turned to how her son's condition would affect their family, their finances and their careers. Less than a year before Bruce's diagnosis, Robin was out on maternity leave for the birth of their third son. As a result, she had exhausted most of her paid time off balances.
"To put it mildly, I was terrified," Robin said. "My wonderful job, from which I gained so much pride and enjoyment, was the means by which our family's health insurance was provided."
She was reluctant to stop working at UK. Her husband's employer provided a less generous health insurance plan. Plus, she loved her job, and she was afraid if she used her remaining paid time off immediately, she would not have any left should Bruce's condition deteriorate later.
"At the same time, I worried that if I failed to take time off from work, I would regret not spending this precious time making memories with him," Robin said.
During a meeting with a pediatric oncology social worker, she learned about the Shared Leave Pool.
The Shared Leave Pool allows UK staff to donate vacation leave to be used by a colleague who has exhausted all other paid leaves when facing an illness or injury affecting themselves or a family member. Since the program was introduced in 2007, UK staff have donated more than 26,000 hours of accrued vacation leave.
"I was truly humbled that other employees would so graciously donate their vacation hours for the benefit of a complete stranger," Robin said. "I cried when I was awarded this gift. I have so much immense appreciation for not only the monetary value of the hours, but for the security provided by the maintenance of my employment status and insurance eligibility."
When she returns to work, Robin intends to donate as much time as she can to the pool.
"We do not take this precious time for granted," she said. "In addition to providing for Bruce's medical needs, we will use this time to create memories that our family will treasure forever. You have given our family the most precious gifts – the gift of security, the gift of stability, the gift of time. We will be forever indebted to you all."