Nicholas Arsenault: How a new kidney and CT paid leave changed my life
This op-ed originally appeared in the Hartford Courant on 10/16/23.
Being fortunate enough to receive not one, but a second kidney transplant is perhaps one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced in my life. As a registered nurse for close to 20 years, I am fortunate to be well-versed in the medical world, allowing me to understand the intricacies of having a chronic illness and how to best manage life after a kidney transplant.
Even with my years of medical experience, my knowledge surrounding all things financial is limited. I felt immensely lucky to have a short-term disability policy provided by my employer during my three months of post-transplant recovery in the early Spring of 2022. However, this only covered approximately 60% of my regular income. I felt uncertain and worried but also lucky to have some income, even if not all of it. I had heard about the CT Paid Leave program prior to my transplant, but it never crossed my mind that I would be eligible for this benefit. Much to my surprise, my case manager at the short-term disability provider had encouraged me to apply to further supplement my income. Low and behold, I was eligible and what a difference it truly made.
Recovering from a transplant is challenging in many ways — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Between keeping up with medical appointments, frequent lab work, and medication changes, the last thing I wanted to be worried about was how I could afford my medical care and keep up with my bills and other obligations.
Knowing I was going to receive supplemental income from the CT Paid Leave program took an immense weight off my shoulders. Having the ability to maintain much of my income during my medical leave from work allowed me to stay on top of my monthly obligations such as my partner’s and my mortgage, my car payment, insurance, and necessary utility needs in addition to any medical costs I incurred during my 12 weeks of recovery. Possessing this degree of peace of mind was truly life altering for me. By being on top of all aspects of my recovery, I was afforded the chance to focus on my healing, a gift in and of itself.
I feel equally as lucky to have a support network of family who were able to help me with the day-to-day support at home including my partner of over 15 years. With daily check-ins from my parents, my partner did not have to take time off from work. During my immediate recovery, this was a concern — how could we also ensure I had the support necessary during my recovery once home if he wasn’t able to afford to take time off from work? As I had learned during this process, this is where the CT Paid Leave program could have again come in to help support us both during my transplant recovery. Had I not had the fortune of having my parents or other family support, my partner would have been able to apply for CT Paid Leave for himself in order to have financial income if he needed to be out of work to step in as a caregiver for me.
In the end, having the CT Paid Leave program was a bright light that provided a long-lasting impact on me. I remain in awe that I am so lucky to have a second lease on life by way of a selfless kidney donor, giving me a transplant that has not only saved my life but improved my health — a priceless gift for which I am eternally grateful. CT Paid Leave played a pivotal role in keeping my financial life in good health while I was out of work healing from my transplant. I’m so thankful for my case manager from my short-term disability for educating me on the program and that I was eligible for this support. It feels so vital a resource that everyone should be made aware of the CT Paid Leave program and be sure to apply for the support when needed — I encourage everyone to look into this, whether for themselves or if they are to be a caregiver. It truly is life altering.