A Pennsylvania woman diagnosed with cancer said she was laid off because her employer — an oral surgeon — didn't believe she'd have the strength to do her job effectively while fending off pain and the effects of chemotherapy.
But what really floored Carol Jumper was that she apparently learned of her layoff — after a dozen years working at the doctor's office — through a handwritten letter mailed just a week after her diagnosis, according to the Beaver Countian.
Attributed to Dr. George Visnich Jr., who has offices in three towns outside Pittsburgh, the missive reads:
“The symptoms of the disease, the pain medications you will need and the side effects of the chemotherapy will be significant and distracting,” the letter reads in part. “You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014. Your last paycheck will be mailed to you this Friday, 8/15/14.”
“I was pissed when I read that letter," Dennis Smerigan, Jumper's fiance, told the Countian. "No kind of man sends a letter like that.”
“She had been working full-time for this man for over 12 years,” Smerigan added to the paper. “He didn’t even call her, he hasn’t even called her once since she got sick.”
But an attorney for Visnich told the Times the doctor did a “humanitarian thing.”
Larry Kelly said Visnich placed Jumper on layoff status so she could collect unemployment compensation during her treatment “with the understanding that when she is feeling better, she can come back to work.” He added to the Times that Visnich didn't contest Jumper’s claim for unemployment benefits.
As for the negative attention the letter has brought, Kelly told the paper it's been “very troubling” for Visnich.
“Very disappointing, in that he’s trying to help this woman and he’s made out to be a villain,” Kelly said.
Jumper's sister made photocopies of the layoff letter and started handing it out to people, the Countian reported; another friend, Rose Lerini, posted a photo of the letter to Facebook, which sent it viral.
Another friend, John Barkovich, told the Times that Jumper wants the issue to die down and has no time to deal with it.
“I spoke with Carol today, and she wants to defuse it,” Barkovich added to the Times. “She doesn’t care about the doctor. She’s in a fight for her life, and she doesn’t want this blown out of proportion.”
Smerigan recalled to the Countian that before her diagnosis, Jumper “just couldn’t sleep at night, she would get out of bed and sit in a chair in the living room, that’s the only way she could sleep was sitting up." After several weeks of that, one day Smerigan was cleaning out the bed of his truck and Jumper came outside and said "you got to take me to the emergency room," the Countian noted.
[sharequote align="center"]"She has no income coming in at all, I am trying to bust my butt for her."[/sharequote]
After testing and biopsies, cancer that affects her ovaries, liver, and pancreas was confirmed, the Countian reported.
It should be noted that Jumper didn't have health insurance through her job at Visnich's office, the newspaper said; she obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
“She has no income coming in at all, I am trying to bust my butt for her,” Smerigan told the Countian. “A lot of people have been very helpful, it’s unreal.”
Smerigan also is looking to stick by Jumper's side closer than ever.
“We were engaged before her diagnosis and we had a date set next year for our wedding,” he told the Countian. “If she starts getting really sick then it is going to happen sooner… it might have to happen a lot sooner. I am going to marry her.”