ASSOCIATES (vol. 5, no. 1, July 1998) -



Diana Dyal
Library Assistant I, Cataloging
University of Kansas Libraries

In June, 1991, my husband, Steve, had open-heart surgery. At the time, we had all five children living with us. Friends, neighbors, and my co-workers helped with food, etc. for many weeks. (Complications required further hospitalization in July) However, the one thing no one else could do was work for me. Mine was the only paycheck and leave without pay was not an option. When I ran out of leave, I had to work.

The Shared Leave Program for the State of Kansas was started in 1992. A staff member (permanent status, at least a year of service) who has a serious illness (or is primary caretaker for a family member with a serious illness) that requires loss of work time exceeding the employee's personal leave may apply for shared leave. The application is reviewed by a committee. If approved for shared leave eligibility, any leave without pay accrued during a pay period may be replaced by donated leave (subject to availability). Certain restrictions apply to the donor, but either sick leave or vacation leave may be donated.

Steve became ill in Sept., 1995 with what became his final illness. I immediately applied for, and was granted, shared leave eligibility. At this time, we only had one child at home, a college student. Again, friends, neighbors, and co-workers helped. The biggest help for me, though, was that this time people could "work" for me. In my case, I asked several friends to donate leave to me. I also received leave from the "pool."

By using leave donated by many others, I could be at home, the doctor's office, or the hospital with Steve when he needed/wanted me to be there. (Or when I needed/wanted to be with him) When not needed at home, etc., I was able to go to work. I actually worked about 1/2 time during the time of my shared leave eligibility.

Shared leave, however, meant much more to me than a full paycheck. In the first place, without shared leave, I probably would have needed to quit working entirely, or work a reduced appointment which would have had grave financial repercussions. Often, as in Steve's case, catastrophic illness comes suddenly with little advance warning. Even though I lost eligibility for shared leave many months before Steve died (there is a one year limit on shared leave eligibility), that year gave us time to plan for a reduced income.

Secondly, being a primary caretaker for a dying spouse is difficult under any circumstances. Shared leave gave me the option of staying home and taking care of myself when that was necessary. My going to work also contributed to Steve's quality of life, as it lessened his guilt for the disruption his illness was causing in my life.

Thirdly, it meant a great deal to me to receive the gift of leave donated by many friends and others whose names I will never know. I was connected to others through their gifts-a connection which helped the loneliness I felt as Steve became weaker.

I know that my attitude about the "impersonal state bureaucracy" has changed. I have worked for the state for 15 years, and to me, shared leave is one of the most helpful programs the state has developed for active employees. I feel a stronger commitment to my job as I try to "pay back" to the system what it has given to me.

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