The Punch

We got a call from our lawyer today regarding the status of my claim against the drunk driver’s insurance company.

As you may know, a very drunk 20-year-old young woman slammed into the back of my rental car while I was sitting at a red light in May 2011. I was in Ohio at the time for my Air Force Reserve duty.

In addition to whiplash that night, I also suffered from lower neck and lower back injuries, requiring physical therapy twice a week leading up to the birth, and then resuming after the delivery.

Initially, we were told that the driver didn’t have car insurance, then we were told she did, but no information was provided to us. As we’re not insurance or legal experts, we retained a lawyer.

After a year of treatment, documentation and such, our lawyer recently submitted the paperwork to the drunk driver’s insurance company. We didn’t even hold our breath, having heard the horror stories about insurance companies. Countless friends and family shared their experiences and advice.

We knew the first offer was going to be a joke.

But I akin it more like a punch you know is coming: you can brace and prepare for it, but it still hurts when it lands.

As expected, the insurance company low-balled us.

After my lawyer explained that this is typical of insurance companies, he told me some of their reasons for such a low offer.

The insurance company claims they can’t determine that the pregnancy itself didn’t cause the severity of my back injury and they don’t want to pay for a preexisting condition. They also said the injuries I received were merely “soft tissue damage.”

When my lawyer said that, a memory flashed in my mind: me sitting hunched over on a padded examination table as my two physical therapists — two grown women — leaned and pushed against my lower back and shoulders, trying to avoid undue pressure on my swollen, pregnant belly, while trying to align my sacrum in place. There was also the day the other physical therapist had to move my ass around as I was propped up on my hands and knees while my daughter watched, all in order to shove my hips back in place.

Google “sacrum” and “C4 spine” and see what kinds of images appear. Trust me: it’s not soft tissue.

The insurance company also took issue with my break in treatment. Of course, my break was giving birth to my son. We stopped physical therapy when I was able to function with a brace and without much pain. The belly was getting bigger, and it didn’t make sense to keep going when the activity just got harder and harder. The second I got the blessing from my doctor, I returned to physical therapy.

Apparently, the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for that part of it. They can’t decipher what part of my weakness and recovery was from the accident and what part was just plain, ol’ pregnancy weakness and recovery.

But guess what: I didn’t have the luxury to decipher between the two, either.

All those nights laid up on my couch with a heating pad, in tears because I couldn’t take anything for the pain … the activity I missed with my children because I just couldn’t move and function like I could before … the times I just gritted my teeth and bared it … the crazy, fiery fear and worry about the possible effects the accident, exposure, and treatment had on my unborn baby … the stress it caused on my husband and me … the time spent at those appointments (as much as I love what those gals did for me) … the tedious work of collecting all my documentation and being accountable to the doctors, physical therapists, insurance companies, lawyers, the Air Force, and my employer at the time …

I didn’t get to decide which I could tolerate as an expectant mother and which I could tolerate as the victim of another person’s idiot decision.

We are not expecting to get rich from this. We want what is fair. That young woman drove drunk and hit a pregnant woman. I was that pregnant woman. I suffered the consequences as a pregnant woman.

She, through her insurance company, can cough up the money and pay for it.

Uno, Friends, and Fathers

My two weeks of Air Force Reserve duty at the Pentagon ended Friday, which meant I kicked off the combat boots, shed the stripes, and focused on enjoying my weekend.

This meant participating in an intense series of Uno card games late into the evening.

Intense, I tell ya.

It was every man for himself: Janah, Miss C, Martin (with help from Jaz), and me. (Lola skipped her nap that day, and went to bed early.) 
It was hysterical the way allies changed, and those who seemed to be a surefire winner could be tripped up by a 4+ card or reverse. 
We must have played about 15 rounds. I can’t remember who tallied up the most wins, but I know we all were laughing a lot.

We also spent the weekend with our friends Nick and Vicky, celebrating their youngest son’s first birthday. We haven’t seen them since we celebrated Orthodox Easter with them, and the kids were super excited to play with their buddies again.
As always, the food was excellent, and the kids couldn’t get enough of the trampoline, bubbles, and frisbees. In fact, there were a few tears and lots of complaining when it was time for us to leave. 
I take that as a good thing.

Finally, we wrapped up the weekend with a trip to Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday to introduce Janah to this special American landmark. My Air Force Reserve colleague Carrie joined us, too. We served together in Ohio, and now we serve together again at the Pentagon.
Fortunately, the weather was perfect for sight-seeing, and the cemetery wasn’t too crowded with tourists. We arrived just in time to witness a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
We walked around the various sections, and also paid a visit to Section 60, where our family friend Maj. Troy Gilbert‘s remains are buried. 
It was heartbreaking to see all the Father’s Day balloons bouncing around in the wind above certain grave stones. It was even more so to see about three young mothers with their toddler/preschool sons visiting their late husbands’ grave sites. 
Some of them had photos. One of them had her husband’s uniform top laid out underneath her and her boy. Some of the markers — to be replaced by headstones later — listed names of troops killed just weeks ago in Afghanistan.
I’ve written often about how Major Gilbert and his wife Ginger took Martin and me under their wings when we were new parents in Italy. The church there was offering a parenting course, and they were the instructors. Their influence no doubt shaped a lot of our ideas about parenting, faith, and family.
When Major Gilbert’s aircraft crashed in Iraq, insurgents took his body from the wreckage before U.S. forces could arrive, later releasing propaganda photos and video of his body. What little DNA was found at the crash site was later buried at Arlington. This was all known at the time, and I’m sure I speak for others when I say I expected that eventually, attempts would be made to reclaim Major Gilbert’s remains. However, after the U.S. military pulled out of Iraq, the Gilbert family learned that nobody was making an attempt to find Major Gilbert’s remains, even though it’s known that he is still over there. 

It took a lot of pressure from the family and the media, but ultimately, the Air Force agreed it would keep searching for him.

I hope one day, we’re able to visit his grave and know he’s truly home again.

His five children certainly deserve that.

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m sharing you this photo of my dad and me from early 2001.
It was taken a few months before I started this blog, before Martin and I were seriously talking about getting married. 
For decades, my dad has been an ART, or an Air Reserve Technician, meaning he works as a civil servant during the week, and an Air Force Reservist one weekend a month/two weeks a year. In 2001, he served his two-weeks at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
That’s where I was stationed as a new public affairs Airman. It was the only time we served together while I was active duty. Eight years later, I left active duty and joined his Reserve unit in Ohio.
Next month, my dad is retiring. 
It’s surreal to think the man who so influenced my decision to join the military is leaving it.
I’m glad he’s my dad every day of the year.