At the peak of last year’s drought, Pam Robertson worked a shift at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
As a bailiff and reserve deputy for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, the 44-year-old has been working security detail at the fair for a dozen years. The gig is separate from her county job, so it’s off-duty work.
“We had confiscated some alcohol, and I was taking it to the office,” she recalled last week of the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 4. “I was driving a (golf) cart, and I thought I could just reach out and open the gate at the same time. Obviously, I couldn’t.
“My wrist snapped back, and I heard it. I knew it was broken.”
The break was bad enough that it required surgery and two screws to the wrist. But Pam was healing and planned to go back to work just as soon as her doctor released her at her six-week appointment.
Then things went downhill.
“I told my husband, ‘Having two children didn’t hurt this much,’” she said. “A broken wrist is supposed to hurt, but I knew something wasn’t right.”
The doctor knew it, too.
“He took one look at me and knew what was wrong,” she said. “He saw the silvery color to my hand and the blue knuckles.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if I can ever get you back to work.’ I had to lie down. I thought I was going to throw up.”
Pam was suffering from a painful nerve disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD. Healing would take much longer and would require months of physical therapy, beginning at a pace of five days a week.
The news was distressing, especially because the accident occurred when Pam was off-duty. After using all of her vacation, personal and sick days, Pam was able to get some financial relief by returning to the courthouse for some light-duty work.
But there was a limit to how much time she was allowed to work a desk job, too.
When she finally was cleared to return to her regular job on Dec. 31, nearly five months after her accident, Pam was coming up 80 hours short on paid time off.
And her Scott County co-workers couldn’t let that happen.
“One of my co-workers told me about filling out this form to see if I qualify for a special effort through the county, so that’s what I did,” Pam explained. “Then I got a phone call, saying my information had been submitted to every employee in the county, asking if anyone wanted to donate any of their time off to me.”
The 80 hours came through in no time.
“There were more than the 80 hours that were donated,” said Mary Thee, assistant Scott County administrator. “People offered more than she needed, but she already was covered because of so much generosity.”
Naturally, Pam was moved by her co-workers’ kindness.
“It doesn’t surprise me that my unit, the bailiffs, gave,” she said. “But it had to be others, too. Nobody wants to fess up. I have my suspicions, but nobody’s talking.”
Thee said the county has had the co-worker donation policy in place for about five years and estimates it has been used once or twice a year, countywide.
“I sent an email to Mary Thee, saying I didn’t even know who to thank, because it’s anonymous,” Pam said. “I wanted to thank anybody who even thought about giving.
“The first things you look at when you get a job are how much you’re going to earn and how much time you have off. We live for our days off sometimes. To just give them away …”
Pam said her primary goal after her injury was simple: “Just let me go back. Don’t let me go down like this.”
Grinning, she added, “Besides, I don’t think they could run this place without me.”
Asked to rate how much she likes her job, on a scale from one to 10, she replied, “25,” adding, “Someone once told me that you don’t go to work to make friends. I know now: They were wrong.”