Joining a Village Where Community Comes 1st and Company, 2nd
After time out of work to care for her daughter, a columnist finds her dream job
In the weeks after my youngest daughter, Bella, was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO) in 2017, work and finances weighed heavily on my mind. I’d started a new job a month before Bella got sick, so I didn’t have any paid time off and didn’t qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act. Trying to figure out bills became as worrisome as sitting in the hospital praying for Bella to feel better.
During the time Bella was hospitalized with NMO, doctors informed me that because of her lesions’ location, I might need to teach her to eat, swallow, talk, and walk again. Bella’s doctors also told me that when she was released from the hospital, she’d need to undergo physical therapy a few times a week until she became stronger, and we’d need to attend frequent doctors’ appointments to check her progress.
At this point, the most important thing to me was Bella’s recovery, and as her mom and biggest cheerleader, I was going to remain by her side and do whatever I needed to do to help her feel better.
At the time Bella got sick, I’d just started as a pre-K paraprofessional at the school Bella attended. Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher and make a positive impact on the students I taught. I loved being a para and enjoyed everything about my new role.
When Bella got sick, however, I had to take a leave of absence from work so I could be at the hospital with her and make any necessary decisions. I didn’t know how much time I’d be out of work, any more than I then knew about NMO. Both were unknown.
When Bella was finally home, I’d been out of work for over three months. Because Bella needed me to be there for doctors’ appointments, therapy, and infusions, I realized I had no choice but to resign from my job.
I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to help my husband provide for our family, but he assured me we’d be OK. Over the next few years, as Bella grew, I began preparing myself to return to the workforce. I had a few office jobs, but they didn’t last.
I began my return to work with a part-time job, and in time, it became full-time. But I had to resign because I had to miss work to take Bella to the doctor. I quickly learned that while employers had empathy for my situation, their business came first, and my absences were affecting business.
I decided I wanted a job with a company that was going to live by the words they speak and take care of their employees as they would their own family. I was determined to find my dream job.
In July 2020, I became the Colorado ambassador for the Sumaira Foundation for NMOSD/MOGAD (or myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease). Being an ambassador has helped keep me organized, busy, and fulfilled. I’ve had the opportunity to help other NMOSD/MOGAD patients and caregivers, and I’ve assisted with special projects. As an ambassador, I even learned how to use Zoom for meetings. It was important for me to keep up my administrative skills so when I did find a job, I could hit the ground running.
In February 2021, after waiting patiently for the perfect opportunity to come along, I was hired at DaVita Inc. as a benefits navigator. I tried for many years to work at the healthcare company, but each time I applied, I was told I needed more experience. When I applied in 2021, I was confident I’d finally gained the experience I needed to succeed there.
The moment I walked into DaVita’s building, I noticed a big phrase that said, “A Community First. A Company Second.” I couldn’t help but smile. My employers have been understanding about the time I need to take Bella to appointments or care for her when she’s sick.
One of my favorite job perks is having a hybrid work environment, mixing office days with remote work. The most fulfilling part is helping and encouraging others during a challenging time in their life. I’ve even had the opportunity to meet and befriend a manager who has a daughter with NMO. Overall, everyone at DaVita has been supportive and encouraging.
In June, I was promoted to a benefits navigator II, and I’m looking forward to all the new things I’ll learn. Though the journey to find my dream job was difficult at times, I wouldn’t change a thing. For the first time since Bella was diagnosed with NMO, I’m a member of a thriving village where I can inspire others, and get inspired as well.
Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).