The Beatles may have been onto something when they sang “With A Little Help from My Friends.” Of course, in the case of Andreas Graf, it was actually his co-workers who came to his aid when he needed a little help.
Graf is a single father to his son, Julius. When Julius was three-years-old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He initially spent nine weeks in the hospital. Around the time Julius was finally healthy enough to come home, Graf’s wife suddenly died of heart disease.
Left to grieve for his wife and care for his sick son at the same time, Graf used up all of his sick and vacation days from work. He assumed that when his vacation days ran out he’d be out of a job and without a steady paycheck. But his co-workers at a German design company didn’t let that happen.
The company’s HR manager, Pia Meier, got 650 different employees, virtually everyone at the company, to donate their overtime to Graf. Each employee donated an average of five hours, totally more than 3,000 hours, giving Graf more than 18 months of paid leave.
“Without this tremendous help, I would’ve been out of a job by now,” said Graf. “At first I was speechless, could not say anything. I cried in front of friends and was completely overwhelmed.”
Julius, having recently turned five, is sometimes well enough to go to nursery school. This allows Graf to work four hours per day. However, Julius still undergoes treatment that will continue until at least August.
“Julius copes very well,” says Graf. “We are on the right track, but that does not protect us from relapse. He must be cancer-free for five years to be cured.”
At the moment, things are finally looking up for Graf and his son. It remains to be seen if he’ll need to use all 3,264.5 hours his co-workers donated to him. Either way, he says he’s eternally grateful to them and the company for such a kind and overwhelming gesture.