A selfie of Michele and Lennon

The following story briefly mentions a firearm injury. Readers who may be sensitive, please take note.

Imagine getting the phone call no parent wants to receive: the local emergency room calling to say your child was involved in an accident. The shock, disbelief, tears, and sheer terror of what lies ahead for your child and your family follows.

I didn’t have to imagine. This happened to me.

My 21-year-old son, Lennon, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and shot through the chest, leaving a bullet lodged in his spinal cord. He was in stable condition but couldn’t feel his legs. He spent two weeks in the hospital, where I couldn’t even see him in person because of the COVID-19 restrictions at the time, and months at a spinal cord rehabilitation facility.

Enter Cisco. I called my manager late this Tuesday evening and explained what happened. He was caring and truly concerned with the well-being of my son and my family. Despite the hour, he immediately sprang into action and started working for me. He notified his leadership team about my situation, informed my customers that I would be away, and got all my duties transitioned to other team members. Over the following days, I received phone calls of concern and sympathy not only from my team members but also folks at the Senior Vice President level! Everyone was truly supportive and really wanted to be there for me. No one ever spoke about my work, and when I asked, it was always “Taken care of, Michele.” Even though I had been with Cisco for less than a year, I felt like I was learning what it really meant to be a Cisconian: support, leadership, employee-centric values, and being part of an 80,000-member family.

The very next morning, I was assigned an advocate to help me navigate Cisco’s benefits. I took advantage of critical time off—separate from our paid time off—and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). I used EAP for free counseling, financial guidance, and, believe it or not, one-off conversations with my advocate to make me feel better on days when I just needed it. EAP was available 24×7 because life happens even outside of business hours, and they understand that.

Man in wheelchair wearing sunglasses, holding hand up in peace sign.But what was most valuable to us was another benefit that allowed us to get a formal second opinion on our son’s condition from a skilled, independent neurologist. It included a fully documented history of what happened, all the pertinent medical records, tests, and scans, ending with a complete analysis of the records and prognosis with next steps.

That’s not to take away from Cisco’s amazing medical benefits. When I received the over $200,000 bill for Lennon’s hospital stay and realized I owed less than $1,300, I was taken aback. I could not believe this was possible because I pay so little per paycheck to cover my family’s medical benefits and received so much more in return. And I owed absolutely nothing for the rehabilitation facility stay because it was covered 100%. All his medications have been fully covered, and he has the coolest wheelchair ever made!

These days, Lennon’s getting used to living life in his new body. He’ll be paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life, but we’ve taken it step by step. The first year was spent getting him comfortable, learning to get around on his own, getting into the wheelchair, and doing general day-to-day activities. Now, he’s completely independent, living on his own in an accessible house (He said he did not want to live with us for the rest of his life!) and working hard in his college classes. He is actually happier now than before this happened and is even getting ready to learn how to drive, but that is a whole blog post in itself!

There is no way I could have made it through this situation without the care and support I got, and still get, from Cisco. Even to this day, I get inquiries from fellow Cisconians about how my son is doing. It’s impossible for me to express in words how much this company means to me. When we were in need, Cisco was not just an employer, but another member of my family, and family is the most important thing. Cisco knows this and has treated me with nothing but genuine care for my life and the lives of those I love. With the way employees are appreciated and prioritized over all else, I can say with certainty that this is truly the best place to work!

Ready to join our supportive teams? Explore career opportunities now.

Subscribe to the We Are Cisco Blog.


Michele Hermes

Customer Success Executive

Customer Experience (CX)