Four days before the Hawaiian vacation they’d meticulously planned and saved for, an email popped into Diane and Ed Hettasch’s inbox that almost derailed their family’s dream outing.
The wheelchair accessible van they rented four months previously was no longer available, and that news was a devastating game-changer. Their 18-year old daughter Lindsay could not make the trip without it.
"It was absolutely critical for our trip because she is medically complex. She can't be moved and transferred because she's at high risk for injury," Diane Hettasch said.
The family’s vacation plans were carefully calibrated around Lindsay’s cerebral palsy and severe seizure disorder, which requires round-the-clock care from her family.
The trip was a long time in the making, centered around celebrating all three Hettasch daughters’ recent graduations: Lauren, from college, and twins Lindsay and Hannah from high school. It was also a surprise for the three sisters.
"We haven't been able to take many family vacations because of our situation. And Diane started saving… geez- four years ago maybe," Ed Hettasch told NBC5 Responds.
When the transportation company cancelled with no alternate option available, the family almost canceled the whole trip. But Diane Hettasch rallied the troops, finding another accessible home and van on a different Hawaiian island. She saved the trip, but lost thousands of dollars in cancellation fees. Around $3,600 in fees, which the trip insurance they purchased then declined to cover-- twice.
"As a special ed teacher, as a caregiver, I really needed to take advantage of the situation and let the world know that if you're providing a service for someone with a disability it's critical for them to know that you do what you say you're gonna do and follow through," Diane Hettasch told NBC5 Responds.
When NBC5 Responds reached out trip insurance provider Allianz to inquire why the Hettasch claim was denied, the company’s answer changed. Allianz reversed its previous decision, citing the “extenuating circumstances” involved and sent a “consideration payment in the amount of $3,637,” wishing the family the best in future travels.
“For me it was a victory for people with disabilities and for people who love people with disabilities,” Diane Hettasch said.
The Hettasch family says that in the end, the trip was everything they’d hoped for. The highlight? The three sisters when into the ocean together for the first time.
“I wanted the girls to be in the ocean. They had never been able to go into the ocean and we just wanted to be able to do something that was going to be the trip of a lifetime,” Diane Hettasch said.