Sara Orris, a teacher for 14 years, has an 11-year-old daughter Natalie with a rare genetic condition. Last year after a grueling surgery and hospital stay, Natalie needed around-the-clock care for six weeks.
Sara had five “critical illness” days and then applied for FMLA – with no pay. “My daughter needed me. She still needed me when I returned to work. I was exhausted and emotionally spent. But the medical bills were already arriving.”
A friend suggested Sara get involved with the Campaign for Paid Family Leave. She researched the coalition and agreed to talk to a reporter. “I was nervous but I did not hesitate,” she said. “I was angry that I actually had to consider, for even a moment, choosing work over my daughter’s care.”
Sara has now spoken to several news outlets, participated in events at the Capital, and educated whoever she could. “I am thrilled to be able to turn what was an extremely stressful situation into something positive,” she said.
Sara was disappointed the bill hasn’t passed yet but is glad they made progress and hopes for passage next session. She experienced an outpouring of support and raised awareness about the disease. Says Sara: “At one point someone called me an ‘activist’ and I decided to wear that badge proudly. I am awed at how something as simple as using my voice could impact many people’s lives.”
As for Natalie, “She was happy her story may make it possible for all parents to be with their children when they go through something terrifying like surgery.”