It’s almost cliché, just about every business out there wants to believe they are different. But I thought it may be interesting to hear what makes Gilligan Sheppard stand out, from an employee point of view.
It was 2003 and I was pregnant. As I had difficulty conceiving, this was a time of immense joy. At the first appointment with my midwife, she did the usual exam and noted that I had been losing weight. When she carried out various other checks, her face soon became very concerned. This meant off to the lab for more tests. Whilst on my way to work the next day, the maternity clinic called and advised me to see them immediately.
That day they told me I was diabetic and most likely a type one diabetic. I learnt how to inject insulin, and they imparted how dangerous it can be and how uncontrolled blood sugar was dangerous for my baby. I was lucky the nurse insisted on remaining on call for me over the weekend.
I had been sick for approximately one year prior to the pregnancy with diabetes. But due to the slow incremental nature of the disease, instead of feeling unwell, I felt normal. It took a few weeks of injecting insulin to know what wellness felt like. I would be a type one diabetic for the rest of my life.
Type one diabetes is a disease where your own body has attacked your insulin producing cells in your pancreas. It’s an autoimmune disorder. Some people are diagnosed at childhood where it’s sometimes called juvenile diabetes, otherwise you can get type one diabetes at any stage of your life. There is simply no cure, it is either inject insulin, or the worst-case scenario. Studies have shown that a person with type one can make up to 180 decisions per day about their health!
It is often confused with type two diabetes which is when your pancreas is overworked, similar to heart problems, or if you are elderly, you can be at risk. It is assumed that type two diabetes is brought on through poor lifestyle choices, but this isn’t always the case. The judgement can be nasty about type two, and I have also found this even within the type one community. I have pondered this quite a bit.
Whatever the circumstances may be – I guarantee, there is no one that chooses this disease.
If you want to help people with diabetes, shaming doesn’t eliminate the problem, but focusing on kindness can help people that are unwell to get the medical help they need.
They told me that my baby could have things like brain damage, spinal damage, or heart damage. We wouldn’t know until the pregnancy was at five months and at that point if the baby was too damaged, they would recommend abortion. There were a lot of shocks to take in on one day – I even recall being too shocked and scared to eat anything.
I was scanned every week for two months until finally, five months in, the scan revealed our baby was okay. The feeling of joy, magic, and relief was immense. We could dare to hope that we would get our precious baby after all.
But dashed only a month later, at 24 weeks, the doctors advised our baby was in danger and we needed to undergo an emergency delivery. I couldn’t move, I knew enough to know that 24 weeks was a very precarious time to give birth.
Of course, I had to go on maternity leave from that point. I told Bruce and he said to me, “You do whatever you have to do to look after yourself and family. We are behind you and fully support you. We don’t want to add to your stress.” He told me I could stay on the payroll for as long as needed.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to take up his offer, but to be able to take the worry of work off my plate, was a huge relief. I spent a bit of time thinking about this, and I realised that GS had recognised my loyalty and hard work, and that had procured me such a privilege. It was truly great to have confirmation of how much I was valued as an employee.
The next year, we had a conference where Bruce announced to everyone, “If you have a problem in life, we will support you through it all and you can stay on our payroll.”
Once I picked up my ego and dusted it off, I realised something… treating people with humanity at GS is not transactional, it’s a given.
Gilligan Sheppard recognise that everyone is human, that sometimes things go wrong, and work is very secondary in those moments of life. Their humanity is evident with clients and employees alike. That’s what makes GS different from other firms. We are not perfect, but we are family. Oh, and by the way, we got to 37 weeks, and I had a baby girl. Her name is Tess, and she has a younger brother Flynn. They challenge me and make me a better person every day, and I love that. When I look at them, I feel such warmth and pride about these two amazing people who treat others with nothing but kindness and humanity.