Dealing with one tragedy is bad enough, but when two tragedies happen at the same time, it can be more than most can handle. Andreas Graf of Fronhausen, Germany, was just 36 years old when his young son was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 3.
The boy had to begin treatment immediately, and that meant he had to spend nine weeks in the hospital in Germany.
According to the American Cancer Society:
“Leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for almost 1 out of 3 cancers. Overall, however, childhood leukemia is a rare disease. About 3 out of 4 leukemias among children and teens are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Most of the remaining cases are acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
“ALL is most common in early childhood, peaking between 2 and 4 years of age. Cases of AML are more spread out across the childhood years, but this type of leukemia is slightly more common during the first 2 years of life and during the teenage years.
“ALL is slightly more common among Hispanic and white children than among African-American and Asian-American children, and it is more common in boys than in girls. AML occurs about equally among boys and girls of all races.
“Chronic leukemias are rare in children. Most of these are chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), which tends to occur more in teens than in younger children.”
If this wasn’t bad enough, it wasn’t long after the boy’s diagnosis that Andreas’ wife died from heart disease.
Andreas was devastated. How was he going to handle it all? He needed to be with his son in the hospital, but he also needed to work to support his family.
At first, he used all his vacation days to spend with this son, but that wasn’t enough. He needed more time to grieve, and his son was still fighting for his life in the hospital.
Andreas was afraid he was going to lose his job.
He had already lost so much; he needed to keep something. HR manager Pia Meier wasn’t going to let Andreas lose his job, however. She was already worried about him and knew he was dealing with so much that the last thing he should have to worry about was his job.
She had a plan and wanted to involve all his co-workers.
She asked them all if they would be willing to willing to donate overtime hours to Andreas, so he could spend more time with his son. She figured those who knew him well would do it and hoped a few others might, as well.
To her surprise, all 650 employees of the company stepped up to donate their overtime to Andreas. Many of them didn’t even know him personally. In two weeks, they racked up 3,264.5 hours to donate to him. Andreas was able to use those hours as paid leave and took a year off of work to grieve and care for his son.
This was a major blessing for him and something he needed in so many ways.
Of course, he needed to be there for his son, but he also needed to know that he had plenty of support from his colleagues. When he found out what they had done for him, he as in tears.
He couldn’t believe how generous they were being, especially those who didn’t even know him. Thankfully, his son, Julius, was able to beat the leukemia and got to leave the hospital after finishing chemotherapy. He turned 5 in February and is hoping to start school soon.
Andreas will never forget how his co-workers helped him during his time of need.
It would have been much harder for him to have kept his job, paid his bills, dealt with the grief of losing his wife, and trying to stay with his young son in the hospital. Dealing with all these things wasn’t easy, but thanks to the help of his co-workers, it was a little bit easier.
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