Too young to

CityPress - - Business -

When Greg (35) was rushed to hos­pi­tal after a virus at­tacked his heart, it gave him a se­ri­ous wakeup call. The at­tack came out of the blue. While he was for all in­tents and pur­poses healthy and fit, with no choles­terol or blood pres­sure prob­lems, he con­tracted peri­cardi­tis, an in­flam­ma­tion of the sac-like mem­brane sur­round­ing the heart.

In this case, it was caused by a virus. There is no ge­netic dis­po­si­tion or any health rea­son for its oc­cur­rence. It just hap­pened.

“I was in good health, but I was un­der ma­jor stress. I work for a company that puts on live events and the show must al­ways go on. It is a highly stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment,” ex­plains Greg, who was about to be­come a fa­ther for the first time.

At that stage, Greg had no long-term in­surance, such as crit­i­cal ill­ness, in­come pro­tec­tion or life cover. If he had died, he would have left his wife a sin­gle mother with no fi­nan­cial support for her­self or their new­born child.

But Greg did have good med­i­cal cover – although that too was a stroke of luck. With a child on the way, the cost of his wife’s fully com­pre­hen­sive med­i­cal cover was go­ing to be­come too ex­pen­sive for the fam­ily of three.

As Greg was in ex­cel­lent health and had only ever seen a doc­tor once in the 15 years prior to his con­di­tion, he de­cided to down­grade to a hos­pi­tal plan. As he was chang­ing cover, a stan­dard three-month wait­ing pe­riod on claims would have ap­plied.

“I was very lucky all the bills were cov­ered. If I had to pay the R93 000 worth of hos­pi­tal bills, I would have sunk fi­nan­cially. My wife also landed up in the emer­gency room as her blood pres­sure had dropped.

“We had enough stress, with me in hos­pi­tal and a baby on the way, so to have fi­nan­cial stress as well would have been over­whelm­ing,” says Greg, who has sub­se­quently de­cided to re­main on his wife’s med­i­cal plan.

The fi­nan­cial is­sues came after Greg left the hos­pi­tal. Firstly, his med­i­ca­tion of R1 000 per month was not cov­ered as a chronic con­di­tion by the med­i­cal scheme and came di­rectly out of his day-to-day sav­ings.

With a child on the way and know­ing the costs of pae­di­atric bills, Greg did not want to de­plete the sav­ings and chose to pay for his med­i­ca­tion from his own pocket.

Greg also needed to go for coun­selling to help him come to terms with what had hap­pened and learn how to man­age his life go­ing for­ward to re­duce stress. The con­di­tion can take many years to re­cover from and any form of stress can trig­ger another at­tack. A month after his son was born, he had a re­lapse and had to be rushed to hos­pi­tal.

“It was a big eye-opener, and maybe the wake-up call I needed. For many years, I had not paid my body the re­spect it de­served and of­ten worked 24-hour shifts.

“Now there are more im­por­tant things than my job. I don’t want my wife to be a sin­gle mother or my son to be raised with­out a fa­ther,” says Greg.

Again, Greg paid the R3 000 worth of coun­selling bills out of his own pocket so as not to af­fect the med­i­cal sav­ings.

Three years ear­lier, Greg had been work­ing at his own business, but by the time he fell ill, he was for­tu­nately work­ing for a company that sup­ported him for the three weeks of sick leave he needed.

“If I had been still work­ing for my­self, it would have been a fi­nan­cial night­mare.

“There are two dif­fer­ent types of stress – pos­i­tive stress when you are work­ing flat out and neg­a­tive stress when it comes to wor­ry­ing about the fi­nances of your own business. At least I didn’t have that stress as well,” says Greg.

When you are in your 20s or early 30s, es­pe­cially if you have not yet started a fam­ily, in­surance cover can seem like a waste of money.

This is a time in your life when you are start­ing to ac­cu­mu­late as­sets and want to fo­cus on buy­ing a home or start­ing your own business. There are so many de­mands on your pocket, in­surance is one box that does not get ticked.

Yet younger peo­ple are more likely to claim for dis­abil­ity or crit­i­cal ill­ness than death.

The statis­tics sug­gest an in­crease in ill­ness in younger peo­ple and, like Greg’s ex­pe­ri­ence, much is at­trib­uted to stress lev­els.

Con­di­tions such as can­cer, heart at­tacks and au­toim­mune dis­or­ders are more likely when stress lev­els are high.

WAKE-UP CALL

Greg, who was gen­er­ally fit, suf­fered a virus at­tack that came out of the blue

PHOTO: DENVOR DE WEE

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