I recently returned to VPCS after taking a medical leave. Being sidelined by a long illness is nothing I ever planned. (I don’t think anyone “plans” a long illness.) But when it comes, it comes like a sleeper wave. Still, at the risk of sounding clichéd, the experience taught me a lot – and it now informs many of the ways I approach both my life and my work.
First, a little about my illness: I had been feeling “not myself” for several months. When things became unbearable, my husband took me to the emergency department. Beginning that afternoon, I was in a hospital (either in Santa Rosa or San Francisco) for 24 straight days. I was diagnosed with not one but TWO rare blood disorders, and the doctors assumed I would need a liver transplant. The short story is that my team at UCSF performed a successful stent procedure, the transplant was deemed unnecessary, the doctors and nurses were amazed at my recovery, and I was eventually sent home sweet home.
Although I now take medicine on a daily basis, I’m back to my old activities, including community volunteering, exercising, hiking, kayaking and cooking.
I’m also happily back at work as a project manager for VPCS.
It can be a daunting prospect to come back to work after a long absence, particularly if the time away was due to illness or injury. Luckily for me, I work for a company that has always emphasized the value of workplace communication. That really came into play when I was recovering at home. My VPCS family kept in regular contact with me, always focusing more on how I was feeling and less on when I would return to work. They approached my return to work in an open and sensitive manner, maintaining an open-door policy. I never felt pressured by them; I knew that I could come back whenever the time felt right to me.
There are actually a lot of parallels between managing illness and managing work in the busy world of construction. Learning how to tackle a serious medical issue has broadened my perspective on coordinating complex projects. In both scenarios, it’s important to find the critical path forward. There’s always the potential for stress and even some confusion, but staying on the straight and narrow will lead to the best outcome every time.
I will be eternally grateful to my co-workers, clients and the rest of the VPCS team for the flexibility and peace of mind they have given me throughout this odyssey. In an otherwise unpredictable situation, I’ve always known that I can rely on their unconditional support. The close-knit nature of the VPCS family extends to everyone in the company’s circle. And there’s nothing more important in life than family – be it personal or professional.
By Holly Maddox