On September 18, 2011, I nearly died. Unusual wind conditions- more unusual than normal, blew me over the edge of Mount Evans. One moment I was riding my bicycle, struggling to stay on the road. The next, I found myself staring up at an azure sky, unable to see the road, 30 feet above me. My friends didn’t see me go over.
I tried to reach my cellular phone. I couldn’t. I couldn’t roll over. All I could do was yell, in spite of my injuries. I had at least 8 fractured vertebrae in my neck and upper back. My right scapula was shattered. My entire rib cage was shattered. I had a small skull fracture. Possibly my worst injury, though, was to my psyche. I became locked in the moment of the accident. There was no escape.
Once I was well enough, I applied for disability. I was denied. The reason the Federal government gave for their denial? They didn’t feel I’d be disabled for longer than 12 months. Here I am, 30 months later, and I’m scheduled to have my fourth spine surgery this June, fewer than three years following my accident. Because of the denial of the disability benefits that I had paid into I had to rely upon the assistance of my elderly parents, who had to dig into their retirement funds to help me.
I’ve gone from being confident about my future to being frightened. There was never any certainty, but before it was masked by the confidence I had… a façade. Now the façade is gone, and I see a world that frightens me. I have no financial stability. What was once a physical prowess I was proud of has been crippled by unforeseen events.
We need paid medical leave. It’s not just to help people like myself to regain a foothold on a future that feels ripped away. It’s for single parents, fathers and mothers, who need the time to care for a sick child. It’s for sons and daughters who need to care for an elderly parent. It is for any of us who need to care for ourselves or for a family member in need.
These are all people who would benefit from having paid leave. A person should not be forced to risk losing their job over the illness of a loved one, or their own illness. Just the same, they should not face poverty for these very same things. Our workers deserve a sense of stability and security. They should be comforted by the knowledge that they are safe in their positions and won’t face poverty under the unforeseen circumstances they may or may not face. In this sense, they will be happier, more productive, and on a psychological level, more stable in their ownership of their position in life.