Grow Magazine

How one man coped with a major stroke

19 May 2017

Timely planning meant extra stress wasn’t added to a health disaster, writes Sylvia Pennington.

A Japanese national, 35-year-old Susumu Masaki (pictured) arrived in Australia in 2012 on a working holiday visa and swiftly fell in love with the people, culture and climate. Sponsorship by a food-services company on Queensland’s Gold Coast meant he could extend his stay in Australia, but several months in to the job his world turned upside down.

Home alone one day after leaving work because he felt unwell, Masaki collapsed. He was found unconscious the next morning by a friend who became alarmed after he failed to attend a catch-up the previous evening and did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

He was rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from a major stroke and provided with treatment to stem the damage. Masaki spent six weeks as an inpatient before being sent home in the care of his employer to continue with a rehabilitation program.

Despite lengthy stints of occupational, speech and physical therapy, Masaki has been unable to return to the workforce and now spends the bulk of his time with his extended family back in Tokyo.

Three years after suffering a major stroke resulting in significant long-term disability, Masaki is continuing to live with dignity and in modest comfort.

Reducing the financial impact

This is because he had a protective strategy in place. His health challenges would have been compounded by serious financial difficulties, were it not for an income-protection insurance policy taken out a few months prior, with the assistance of the financial advisory service at ANZ’s Surfers Paradise branch.

“Susumu had come in to sort out a bank account and while he was doing that he talked to the staff about getting his affairs organised – it was a conversation that ended up with him sitting down with us and going through his financial goals and objectives so we could make sure he was on track and protected long term,” ANZ financial planner Matthew Lewis says.

“Income-protection policies differ but in Susumu’s case he’s eligible to receive 75 per cent of his previous salary paid on a monthly basis, up to the age of 65.

“His benefit increases with the consumer price index, which means you don’t fall behind in real terms as the cost of living goes up. It’s a reduction in income compared with working full time but for someone in Susumu’s position it’s much better than receiving government benefits or, in his case, having to go back to Japan where he’d receive nothing at all.

“It was incredibly fortunate that he had taken out this trauma policy and that he’d had it for more than three months because that’s the length of the waiting period before you can make a claim. As it was, we helped him manage the claims process, it all came through and he’s receiving his benefit in full.”

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Providing a lifeline

Masaki himself describes the funds as a lifeline and a blessing.

“I was able to pay for all the necessities – my medical expenses, medications, rent, transport, phone bills, food ...” he says.

“By having income protection, my stress was relieved thoroughly. I couldn’t imagine where I’d be now if I didn’t have any insurance in place and it is a dreadful thought.”

He says knowing he is not dependent on others as a result of his inability to work is a tremendous relief.

“There would have been so much pressure on people around me, especially my family; they would have had a financial burden,” Masaki says.

“There was no need for support from anyone because the insurances covered my essential expenses – I am truly thankful for them.”

Being prepared for the worst

Lewis says cost is a major consideration for many individuals pondering the need for such cover.

“Most people who come in think ‘it’s too expensive for me and I won’t be able to afford this’ but at the end of the day I don’t think they can afford not to have it,” he says.

Premiums vary, based on factors including the applicant’s age, gender, occupation, health and medical history and the level of cover sought.

For a young person in good health not employed in a hazardous occupation, a policy providing life, disability, trauma and income-protection cover could cost in the vicinity of $150 a month. Income-protection insurance alone may be priced at around $60 a month.

“Susumu is a prime example of the sort of person who people may have thought didn’t need this sort of cover,” Lewis says.

“He is someone who was fit and healthy, his whole life ahead of him, and had never had any signs of illness or injury – and then out of the blue he had a stroke and everything changed.”

▪ Can’t work? Keep being paid with ANZ income-protection insurance