05:00 AM

Employee blog: A friend in need is a friend indeed


When Linda McDonald’s husband needed a liver transplant to save his life, she discovered her work friends were really best friends.

“Do you have a best friend at work?”

I’ve worked here 23 years, and when that question was first asked on the engagement survey I thought, “Why does the company care if I have a best friend at work?”

Now, I have a much better idea why.

More than a year ago, my husband, Jim, was diagnosed with a disease that destroys the bile ducts to his liver.

He could not control or stop the effects of the disease with exercise, medication, nutrition or anything else. He needed a liver transplant.

Jim was added to the deceased donor list, but there was no way to know when a liver would be available. Many more people need livers than there are livers available.

This is where my friends came in.

I had no idea what an awesome, supportive group I worked with until I needed them. Some friends I’ve known for only a short time. Some I’ve known my entire career.

My husband’s and my dilemma became more public when we posted information on Facebook asking our friends to spread the word about Jim needing a liver.

Even though Jim was on the deceased donor list, it seemed a living donor might be a more probable option. However, that required getting someone we knew to undergo major surgery and donate part of their liver.

I felt I should tell my boss and coworkers. They needed to know when I needed time away from work for doctor appointments, hospital stays and – once the transplant became available – for recovery from surgery.

My manager, Ann Muehl, was awesome. She always cheered me on, asking questions to let me vent a little and was truly interested in helping. Even if it was just to let me know that the work would get taken care of. My coworkers stepped up without complaint and covered for me.

A good friend let me vent my frustrations and concerns. Some mornings I was so sad and frustrated I would cry on the way to work, get to my desk and send an email to him. He was always there with an offer to talk and good advice.

Other friends invited me to happy hours or shopping/lunch trips that boosted my spirits. And, some of AmFam’s social media experts helped with our living donor campaign.

Many of you stopped me in the hall or before meetings and asked how Jim was doing. Then, you asked how I was doing. And, while I’m not the kind of person to gush, it really helped to know people cared.

And, there were several coworkers who asked about becoming a living donor!

This surprised me. I even asked one person, whom we found out was too old to be a donor, why she would offer to do such a thing.

Her beautiful answer was she thought Jim and I were such a happy couple and she wanted to do something important in her life to help people. I was awestruck someone would step forward like that.

Why do you need a best friend at work?

Because they inspire the positive, fun stuff. And, they help you through the negative, difficult stuff.

We spend eight or more hours a day at work. And when personal issues weigh heavily on our minds and physically take us away from our jobs that we want to do well, a best friend (or many) is truly helpful.

I’m happy to say Jim was lucky enough to receive a deceased liver when another patient couldn’t accept it due to ill health. His transplant was April 11.

While rejection and infection are still issues to watch, his recovery is going well and we are ecstatic!

Do I have a best friend at work? You bet I do!

Thank you to all of you.