Critical Illness - A survivor's experience with 'the silent killer'

Following my article on Wednesday I have spoken to Geoff Fothergill about his experiences with a critical illness and how this has impacted on his life as well what helped him through this time.

Geoff was very young to be introduced to life insurances with his father organising for him to obtain cover at the age of 17 when he commenced work. Unfortunately, Geoff needn’t wait too long before he was diagnosed with a critical and chronic illness and at 19 he was diagnosed with kidney disease. As a young and active man, he continued to live with this disease and still manage to play football until the progression of the disease stopped this at 22. It only took five years from diagnosis for his kidneys to fail and at the young age of 24 he received his first kidney transplant.

Despite this massive hurdle at such an early age Geoff still had a very successful and lucrative career and was working towards retirement when a few years ago at the peak of his earning capacity he found that his transplanted kidney was failing. Fortunately in his role as a GM he had been offered a Key Person life and total permanent disability cover some years earlier and with annual increases in the level of cover, he had enough to pay out a large chunk of his debt when he met the definition of totally and permanently disabled.

The treatment for his condition has included 30 operations, 2 years on home haemodialysis and a second transplant (which was facilitated by a three-way paired kidney exchange, his wife donating a kidney). While the insurance pay-out has helped Geoff, early diagnosis and limited cover means by his estimates, as well as the medical costs, he has lost well over a million dollars in income and will have to continue to work for another 5 years past where he was planning on retiring with his wife has also having returned to work after 25 years. The second incidence of the disease also required them to sell their investment properties and his stake in numerous racehorses.

Having lived through this Geoff’s message to anyone who may be reading this is; you don’t know when something will happen but if and when you do need it, insurance is invaluable. Also don't feel like you have to go it alone, should you be in this position the advice of a lawyer and adviser can hugely improve the claims process and reduce the stress allowing you to focus on treatment and recovery.

Following my discussion with Geoff I would also like to highlight the need for more awareness of Kidney disease. One Australian is dying every 25 minutes with kidney related disease which has become known as the Silent Killer. People can lose up to 90% of their kidney function before experiencing any symptoms. One in three Australians are at an elevated risk of kidney disease, If you have at least one of these risk factors consider discussing it at with your GP at your next checkup.

If this has raised any questions about your own circumstances please feel free to contact me to discuss it further.

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