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A 33-year-old agricultural mechanical parts sales representative, Tim had a wide sales area covering a large part of the South Island. Often away from home for five days at a time, he carried a wide range of parts that commonly require replacement - belts, pulleys, seals, and bearings.
Meanwhile, Debbie was a stay-at-home mum who looked after their household affairs. Their children had the normal coughs and colds, and both needed multiple sets of ear grommets fitted.
When the children progressed to school life, Debbie decided she needed something to full up her extra time during the day. Initially she volunteered at a local hospice shop, and then at the children’s school, which she loved.
That volunteer role soon turned into a paid position. Life was good; the kids were flourishing, and Tim was doing really well - getting regular bonuses, and there was a potential promotion that would mean less travel.
The family had booked a trip for August 2018, to visit where their families had originally come from in Holland. But in May, Debbie developed a sore left breast and feeling a bit run down, which she put down to overdoing it at work.
A visit to the GP in June resulted in a specialist referral, and the news from the specialist was not good. Debbie was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer in her left breast, which had spread to her lymph nodes.
The specialist suggested a mastectomy, a combination of chemotherapy drugs, and then radiotherapy. The first line chemotherapy drug was a subsidised by Pharmac, and available through the public system.
However, while the second drug was approved by Medsafe, it was not subsidised by Pharmac meaning it was not available through the public system. But as the family had medical insurance, Debbie was able to have the surgery and the recommended chemotherapy treatments paid by her insurance.
With that treatment completed, she decided to wait until after the delayed trip to Holland to have the breast reconstruction surgery. In September 2019, the family returned with many memories and photos from the trip of a lifetime.
Like many who have had cancer, unfortunately Debbie again became unwell, and investigations found the cancer was back and had spread. Her health deteriorated rapidly, and Debbie passed away on December 20, 2019. Tim was devastated at the loss of his beautiful wife.
Being the organised person that she was, Debbie had made a list for him of things to do. Top of the list was to ring the insurance adviser who had helped them with her medical claims, and who had stayed in regular touch with them.
Debbie’s life insurance claim was signed and lodged on Christmas Eve 2019, and Tim received the full claim payment on December 31, 2019. He was able to go mortgage free, and his employer helped by restructuring Tim’s role to allow him to have more time at home with the children.
Although the experience the family went through was extremely traumatic, unfortunately it is not that uncommon. Helping them through their grieving process were a number of assistance programs offered as part of their Medical and Life insurance covers.
So, is Tim a fan of insurance now? ‘‘No!’’ But he does acknowledge that without the medical cover they couldn’t have taken Debbie on that dream trip, and he would have had to make completely different choices after she passed away.
Tim now talks openly about the difference that insurance made to the family. Of course he follows that up with “I’m still not convinced about insurance...’’ - and a wry smile.
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