Drunk Driver Kills Dad, Hospitalizes Kids & Mom Gets Fired for Taking Too Much Time Off

hospital bedTell me if any of this makes sense to you. Melissa Bartley's husband and two young sons were in a car accident in March. A drunk driver took firefighter husband Ben Demond's life and put their two kids in the hospital. But when Melissa tried to get short-term disability so she could afford to stay at her kids' bedside, the insurance company said no. Then her company let her go in June.

It's 2012, and this is the system we have built in America. Corporations watch the bottom line, and people get screwed. We have left a mom with nowhere to turn but to the good hearts of people in her community who are trying to fundraise their rear ends off to enable her to be with the children who need her.


It would be easy to point fingers here, but there is no one solid reason why people are put in this type of position when a loved one is sick. The Family Medical Leave Act is a help, but it's not enough. Twelve weeks of time away from a job isn't enough when your kid or your spouse hasn't recovered after three months.

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I don't want to fault Melissa Bartley's employers for needing to let her go; it's not easy being a business owner short an employee. But she wasn't some slob who got drunk and never showed up for work. And they fired her on the day she went back to work, after her disability claims were denied. They were getting their employee back!

It hardly seems fair. Or right for that matter.

She was a woman whose life was upended by a drunk driver. And now she has no job. Not to mention the disability insurance company ignored several letters from doctors saying Bartley could not physically work when they denied her claim. So she has no income stream there either.

And then there's the sheer cost of medical care and the added cost of staying near hospitals. A friend recently had to spend an entire month depending on the goodness of strangers while her daughter was a patient at a children's hospital more than four hours away from home. They were lucky to have health insurance, but the Ronald McDonald House was full, and she was facing costly hotel bills every night for four weeks! If it weren't for the non-profit Hosts for Hospitals finding her a host home for the month, the bills would have been astronomical.

This is the America we live in. It's an America that puts families and health care at the bottom of the heap. It's an America where corporations forget that it's people who help them make money.

But it's also an America where people, every day people, still care. The Norwich Fire Department, where Ben Demond was a fireman, is trying to raise money for little Alex and Cole's care. They're sticking by Melissa, even if the big insurance companies and the corporations won't. Want to help her? The firehouse has a fundraiser right online for donations.

Do you think big corporations have forgotten the people who help them keep bringing in their profits?


Image via arriba/Flickr

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