The letter signed by Dr. Visnich. Photo by Rose Lerini via The Beaver Countian
A Pennsylvania woman who is battling pancreatic, liver, and ovarian cancer is also now out of a job, thanks to the oral surgeon, George Visnich, who employed her for 12 years. Visnich laid her off in writing shortly after her devastating diagnosis, according to a letter written on his stationery that wound up posted on Facebook and then published the local newspaper this week.
“You are currently engaged in a battle against cancer that will be demanding physically, mentally, and emotionally,” reads the letter to Carol Jumper, 51, of Hopewell Township. “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. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you fight this horrible disease. Thanks for your time at Visnich Oral Surgery. I hope your battle is swift, smooth, and successful!”
Photo of Carol Jumper via Facebook
Neither Visnich nor his lawyer, Larry Kelly, returned calls seeking comment from Yahoo Health on Friday. But Kelly told the local Beaver County Times that the meaning of the letter has been misconstrued, and that it was simply a “humanitarian” gesture to allow Jumper to collect unemployment. Visnich wrote the letter, Kelly explained, “with the understanding that when she is feeling better, she can come back to work.” He added that the media coverage, which has blown up this week, has been “very disappointing, in that he’s trying to help this woman and he’s made out to be a villain.”
A friend of Jumper’s, John Barkovich, who has been helping to plan fundraisers in support of her treatment costs, told Yahoo Health that the coverage has indeed gotten out of hand. “She wants to drop the whole thing,” he said. “Somebody posted the letter on Facebook with good intentions, to alert friends that Carol is now unemployed.” He added that Jumper “is not worried about the doctor at all, and she made it quite clear to me that she wants [the attention] diffused.”
But Jumper’s fiancé, Dennis Smerigan, told the Beaver Countian on Wednesday, “I was pissed when I read that letter. No kind of man sends a letter like that.” He added, “She had been working full-time for this man for over 12 years. He didn’t even call her, he hasn’t even called her once since she got sick.”
The social media response has been angry, as well, with Twitter users calling the letter “horrible,” and Visnich “an awful man to work for if you happen to get cancer,” a “cold, vile, nasty man,” and various other unmentionable descriptors.
Jumper’s supporters, meanwhile, have set up various fundraisers, including T-shirt sales, an upcoming spaghetti dinner, and a golf outing. Updates can be found on “Bumper’s Buddies,” a closed Facebook group. “Our Dear friend Carol Jumper was recently diagnosed with Cancer,” notes the page, which already had more than 1,250 supporters Friday. “This group is to support Carol in her fight against the disease and to keep everyone posted on her progress and any upcoming events that will be held to help with any medical expenses she will need.”