Saying Goodbye and Forgiving

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events

When a family member dies due in a car crash, plane crash or some other way, through the negligence of another, the process of saying goodbye and feeling some measure of peace becomes seemingly impossible. How do we let go when anger becomes a dominant feeling?

When I was small, a family in our town died in a head on collision. A vehicle traveling in the wrong lane around a curve crashed into them and the car caught on fire. The whole family perished, except for the dad. It almost seemed worse that he was alive to feel the pain of losing his wife and children. I never saw the dad after that day. My parents told me that he moved away. I still think about him. I hope that he found someone to talk to. I hope that he found others like himself.

One key to saying goodbye after losing a family member when the death is wrongful is found in speaking to others who can relate. When my clients come to me after losing a family member in a plane crash I provide them with information about ACCESS (Aircraft Casualty Emotional Support Services). ACCESS is an organization that connects grief-stricken family members with other people who also lost family in plane crashes, whether the crash is commercial, private, helicopter or military. I have had the honor of personally meeting with the founder of ACCESS and was so impressed with what it is doing.  Their toll free hotline is 877-227-6435. ACCESS depends upon donations and does not charge for its grief counseling.

In Seattle, The Healing Center is well known as a community support group. The group sessions cost only $20 each.  Counseling is offered on a sliding scale.  One quote from their website describes how the Healing Center helped a widow who lost her husband in a fatal motor vehicle crash.  She writes:

“I was 39 years old when my husband of 17 years was killed instantly in a car accident . . . I found the support group sustaining and fulfilling in a way that nothing else was.”

As an attorney practicing personal injury law, I truly enjoy helping my clients rebuild their lives after a loss. I help them recover, not only financially. Recovery also includes grieving. The first step involves contacting a grief support center.  As I tell my clients, your loved one would want you to recover from their death.

More Disabled Travelers Complaining About Airlines

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



Minneapolis Star Tribune

Reprinted from – Seattle News Tribune



People who have disabilities face a confusing landscape of federal regulations and airline policies when they attempt air travel.


While her nurses were stowing the 100 pounds of medical equipment she needs to travel with, Carrie Salberg was given a startling order: Get off the plane.

Salberg, who has muscular dystrophy, was never told why she couldn’t use the ventilator she requires to breathe on the Jan. 13 flight that was supposed to carry her home to Minneapolis-St. Paul from New Orleans. Just a month before the flight, Delta Air Lines said her equipment met the company’s requirements.


“It was humiliating, it was upsetting, it was embarrassing,” said Salberg, 33. “We just did what we were told. We didn’t really have much of a choice.”


Salberg’s story illustrates the confusing landscape of federal regulations and airline policies that confronts travelers with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act, established in 1986, prohibits discrimination against someone with disabilities during air travel, provided any necessary medical equipment is approved according to in-flight rules. But disabled travelers are increasingly complaining about their rights being violated.

In 2009, disabled passengers filed 17,068 complaints against airlines, up 22 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 178 cases, airlines refused to let disabled passengers board a plane, according to complaint data.

Recent changes to the federal rules governing the travel of disabled persons have in some cases misfired.


What labels?


For instance, a 2009 rule was supposed to simplify the process for determining which medical equipment was approved for in-flight use. Instead of forcing crew members to inspect devices to see if they met various criteria, each approved item would come with a sticker showing it met Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements.

But the federal government never authorized anyone to make the stickers, so a traveler like Salberg with approved equipment has to prove repeatedly that it meets regulations.


“They made this rule to make it easier,”said Michael Luber, a Milwaukee man who was unable to fly in May 2009 because of his ventilator. “The problem is … they don’t have stickers and it’s been a year and a half.”


Luber said it’s been frustrating, but “we’re a minority. Who’s going to pay attention to the one in a million flying with a ventilator?”

In April, the U.S. Department of Transportation plans to revisit the rules and is considering eliminating the labeling requirement.

Determined traveler


Salberg waited years to be able to travel because the equipment she needs to breathe wasn’t portable. Since 2005, she has taken cruises and gone to Mexico.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of planning, and getting on and off the plane is pretty much the worst part of a trip,” said Salberg. “But it’s worth it.”

While planning her trip to New Orleans, Salberg and her mother contacted Delta to make sure they understood the airline’s rules for medical equipment. Salberg also had a certificate of compliance from the manufacturer.


Her flight to New Orleans went smoothly. She even got a free upgrade to first class.

Trouble on return

Salberg’s problems began shortly before takeoff on her return flight. As one of her nurses lugged a 25-pound battery on board, she was stopped and told that the pilot needed to inspect it.


Salberg, who was already in her seat, said she couldn’t tell the flight crew she already had airline approval because she didn’t have the device she needs to speak. Crew members were shown the compliance letter and told Salberg had flown previously, but those reassurances were brushed off.

Instead of a direct flight, which Salberg had paid extra for, her group was put on a flight to Atlanta, delaying their arrival in Minneapolis by about five hours. The delay meant Salberg couldn’t drink anything because she isn’t able to use a public restroom.

“It’s more than just an inconvenience,” Salberg said. “It can be a matter of health when they make decisions like that.”