The federal government has a program through which employees with leave time they won’t be able to use can donate it to other employees who have used all their leave time and – because of an emergency — need more. I used up all my leave for the two months I stayed home with Flynn, so I was in quite a bind when this whole cancer situation barged into our lives. If we worked in the United States I probably could have made it work. I could have taken a few hours off here and there to go with Andy to important doctor appointments; I could have been there with him in the evenings and on weekends for support. But because I live and work in Benin there was no way to really support and care for my husband as he medevac-ed back to the United States without straight up leaving my job.
Thank goodness for the voluntary leave transfer program.
I didn’t really expect to receive many donations, however. Most of the other federal employees I know are relative newcomers like me who don’t have oodles of extra leave time built up yet. Plus, while people can certainly donate to strangers, I’ve heard this happens more toward the end of the calendar year when leave is going to expire if not used.
Still, I applied to the leave transfer program anyway, and a department notice went out with my name. No one really reads those things as far as I can tell, though, so I knew I needed to email colleagues and friends asking pretty please to consider donating to me. But I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Then today someone I met only a few weeks ago (when I started my temporary Main Sate assignment) asked me how my donations were coming in. “Do you still need more?” she inquired.
“Well,” I explained. “I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I have any yet because I haven’t asked.”
“You have some,” she assured me. “Trust me, you have some.”
So I checked. Indeed, I did have some. In fact, I have enough to cover the time I need at this point two times over. Wow.
(Don’t worry — any leave I don’t ultimately use during this cancer ordeal will be restored to those who donated. Now that I’m working in D.C., hopefully I won’t need to take any more time off, but it turns out Andy’s not totally in the clear yet so we’ll see what happens. More about that another time.)
Because of the generosity of others I wont have to resort to taking leave without pay, which would have forced us to pay our hefty health insurance premium ourselves among other inconveniences.
As thankful as I am for the leave donations, the situation is still not perfect, and so this is the paragraph you should skip over if you’re not in the mood to listen to me whine. In addition to having to deal with this whole cancer thing in the first place, I had to burn through every minute of my own leave time before taking donations from others. It’s a fair rule. I don’t disagree with it. But it’s also a real bummer because it’s been years since I’ve taken a vacation (I was saving up leave for maternity leave), and instead of vacationing in South Africa and France as I’d been eagerly anticipating, the leave I built up since having Flynn was whittled away in hospitals and doctors offices. There will be no vacationing for me anytime in the near future, sadly, and trust me, nothing makes one need a vacation more than having a new baby and then dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Sigh.
But the important thing, of course, is that Andy should be okay. Our little family will be okay. And slowly I’ll build up some leave time again and one day we’ll go on a very nice vacation. And then years and vacations will float by, and maybe a decade from now when Andy’s engrossed in his job and Flynn’s busy with little league and soccer camp, I’ll find myself having more leave time than my family vacations can fill. And when that’s the case, I can’t wait to pay forward the favor to some other anonymous person whose name appears in a department notice.