I've been working with Disability Insurance (DI) for 25 years. I've been involved in sales, underwriting, customer service and claims. I've helped thousands of people get or maintain their coverage. With that being said, I was like most people in thinking that disability could not happen to me. I WAS WRONG.
It was Sunday February 12th, 2011. I had spent the day with my sisters and my parents. We were driving around as a group looking for an assisted living facility for my parents. I was 46 years old, and I thought I was in good health. We had gone to the Versailles Diner for a late lunch and then I went home to my apartment. I had lived alone for many years. Later that evening, I began having chest pains. It did not seem too bad to me. By the morning the pain was gone but I was feeling a little lethargic. I was supposed to go to the mall with a friend. He called me to see when I would be ready. I told him about the day before and the pain from the previous night. He said to get dressed and that we were going to the hospital. I didn't think anything was wrong, but he convinced me to go.
We took a ride to Morristown Memorial and walked into the Emergency Room. I told them what happened, and they pushed me to the head of the line. This seemed extreme since I felt fine. An EKG came back clean. Then they did the blood test. A doctor came over 15 minutes later and told me that I had a heart attack. My blood pressure was fine, and my cholesterol was normal. But I had a heart attack.
The hours and days to follow are a blur. The next day was Valentine's Day. That was when I had my Angiogram. They tried to clear the blockage but were unsuccessful. Two days later I had Double Bypass Surgery. I had never known anyone my age that had something like this. Two days after the surgery, they had me walking a little. I was very surprised at the number of people on that Cardiac floor that were my age or even younger.
I left the hospital a week later and stayed at my sister's house for a few weeks. It is amazing the stuff that you cannot do for yourself after an experience like this. After taking a shower, I would nap for an hour. It was three weeks before I could go home and then another month before I could drive. My sisters would drive me to doctor appointments and Cardiac Rehab. They would go to the supermarket for me and do my laundry. I had gone from being very independent to depending on family for the simplest things.
I was not able to go back to work until August. That was six months being disabled. Initially, I went on short term disability with the state. Then I moved to my longer-term coverage with Guardian. I went through the claims process from the inside instead of watching from the outside as I had done for years. The people at Guardian were tremendous and very helpful. My monthly benefit of $2,500 made a huge difference in my life.
I would strongly recommend everyone purchase disability insurance protection. Like many things, you cannot understand how important it is until you need it. At that point you will either know the regret of not having the coverage or the relief of knowing that you are protected.
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