Working in insurance for over 20 years, in a claim's role, I see the value of Protection Insurance every day. I have assessed countless claims over the years for young people suffering with life- changing illnesses, many of whom were in excellent health before they became ill.
Whilst I used to cockily think of myself as almost invincible, I have learnt the hard way that I was very wrong, and this was a very big error in my judgment.
I woke on the morning of 27 April 2021 and went about my usual routine, dropping my little boy to nursery before joining the regular Teams catch up call with my colleagues at SCOR. Sadly, that is the last thing I can remember.
Sometime around lunch, my girlfriend Liz heard a large thud on the floor, and having initially been annoyed with the noise I was making, found me collapsed on the floor. Thankfully, she is a qualified first aider and quickly commenced CPR and called an ambulance.
A life-changing event
Whilst I was clinically “dead” for almost 37 minutes, with Liz’s intervention and then the emergency paramedics taking over, I survived. I had suffered a cardiac arrest caused by an ST-elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI). Unfortunately, it still resulted in significant complications including a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury. This has caused damage to my frontal, occipital, parietal and left temporal lobes, and has caused some mild language difficulties in terms of the speed of processing and physically I have required support to ‘get everything working again’. The initial collapse also triggered a problem with my shoulder which eventually required surgery too.
I was in a coma for around 6 weeks having suffered with sepsis and required a tracheostomy. I also required a short period of dialysis for kidney failure and a stent in one of my arteries, which was a significant procedure as I also required blood thinning medication. This caused a risk of bleeding out during the procedure.
Prior to this event, I was in good health, or so I had thought. I was training to complete another Ironman triathlon in a months’ time and felt physically very fit. I didn’t suffer with any ailments or had any conditions that were of any concern. The only indicator I’d had that something wasn’t quite right, was that my friend said I appeared to really struggle on a run in the forest the previous weekend, which I had put down to side effects of the COVID-19 jab.
As this occurred during COVID, I was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at hospital. Initially I wasn’t allowed any visitors. When I eventually came round from my coma, my little boy had caught chicken pox, which further delayed me getting to see him.
Having gone through all of this, I discovered the benefit of having Private Medical Insurance (PMI), gratefully provided by SCOR as part of my remuneration. This really helped me, as I was able to expedite a lot of my treatment, rather than having to go via the NHS and a number of potential waiting lists.
Despite my background and experience, I regret to say that I did not have much Critical Illness (CI) cover in place. I had suffered a STEMI which would have met the CI requirement for a heart attack and unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient cover in place.
Left with worries over the future
In the past, I had a carefree attitude towards life in general. However, I am now left with huge concerns over what the future holds for me and my family. Fortunately, in addition to having PMI, SCOR also provide me with Income Protection (IP) benefits as part of my remuneration. This has been a lifesaver and enabled me to continue to pay my mortgage. I do kick myself for not having CI cover in place as a lump sum to help pay off some of my mortgage would certainly have helped and would have provided a lot more certainty about my future.
Despite being over 2 years since I suffered this huge event, I still struggle with my rehabilitation. Whilst SCOR have helped with my recovery, I am still only able to work for a few hours a day and so the additional coverage has been invaluable to maintain my income.
As a claims assessor, I have always tried to be mindful of people when they complain of fatigue. Whilst I admit to having been a bit of a sceptic in the past for something that can be very subjective, I now know it is very real and people suffer with it in different ways. The fatigue I have now is unbelievable and something I do struggle with massively. I manage just a few hours each morning before I feel mentally tired.
Physically, I realise that I cannot do what I used to, but I do manage to push / struggle through most things, still. The biggest issue I currently have is with mental fatigue. My eyes begin to lose focus and I get “blurriness” trying to concentrate on the computer screens.
The future is now very uncertain
Two years on from the original incident, I continue to improve, albeit slowly. I have a reasonable quality of life and am largely independent. I have been able to get my driving licence reinstated and can go to the gym and play golf.
However, I must accept that unfortunately, my life won’t be the same again. I am still under the care of several specialists for my low mood, a vestibular specialist to try and ease the brain fog / dizziness I get (it’s like a constant hangover without the good bit before) and I am also engaging with an occupational therapist to hopefully help with a return to work at some point in the future.
A CI payout would certainly have helped with the bigger picture too as I struggle physically to help around the house much, so the ability to hire a cleaner and childcare for my little boy Albie would have been a huge help. I am fortunate to have an understanding partner who has picked up most of the slack (with a payout from CI I could have also treated her with some time away too).
I appreciate that this is a very frank account of everything I have been through and that despite being two years down the line, I still have struggles daily. Therefore, if this article can convince even one more person to realise that we are not indestructible and that insurance is essential to protect our long-term futures, then it has been worthwhile.
I am very fortunate to have an extremely supportive employer in SCOR, who also provided me with a number of benefits to reduce the burden of my illness. Others may not be so fortunate.
Here is a newer picture of me with Albie (not in the hospital), though he refused to take one unless he could dress as a teenage ninja turtle. I am not sure what the future holds, but he certainly makes it worthwhile to continue to fight to get better.