Who Amongst Us Has Evaded Disablement?

I volunteer to go first. Privileged I feel in the fact that I have been spared the physical discomfort and the financial anguish of not being able to perform the duties of my occupation except in three cases throughout my 69 year old career.

The First Time
Walt Petersen - 1952At the age of 33, I mysteriously became afflicted with Polymalgia Rheumatica which typically preys on elderly persons and more so women than men. However, the victim is frequently of Scandinavian descent, which I am. My case lasted for three months and resulted in my only personal disability insurance claim. After a 30 day elimination period, my claim amounted to two months of benefits of $500 per month.

That $1,000 (tax-free) was especially appreciated because of family economic obligations and having a business to support. The $500 monthly benefit was the maximum benefit amount underwritten at the time. I yearned for more, but the power of the pen was in the hand of a very conservative underwriter who was further restrained by a lack of reinsurance support. Although this was from the company I represented, my limitations were the same as the people to whom I had sold individual disability plans.

That was when I realized that during a disability claim, the insured person always wants more insurance, but the folks who had the privilege of making underwriting rules back then thought of “adequate” benefits being enough to provide food and water and maybe a tent in the park.

My family was superb through the entire ordeal. They patiently took me to seven doctors looking for a cure. The last doctor, like the others before him, was credentialed as a specialist. His specialty (educated in England) was listed as GYNECOLOGY! I was too sick to care. This man did his exam and returned to lay a pamphlet on my lap labeled Polymyalgia Rheumatica. He recognized my problem immediately.

We started a heavy regimen of steroids, monitoring my system frequently and concluding with a cure over a five month period. It was a difficult recovery. The time was suffering time, complete with heavy aches and pain of such severity that the attempts to try to concentrate on business were futile. The only way out was to stick with the burden of heavy steroids and wait for the medicine to conclude its task.

It finally ended. The experience brought home the significant need people have for income replacement insurance.

The Second Time
Decades ago, my wife and I stopped in Miami on our way to an insurance convention in Puerto Rico to visit friends. The opportunity to pig-out on shellfish was too overwhelming so we purchased sacks of clams and proceeded to eat all of them. It was a great party.

While walking through the Miami airport, my ankle started stiffening. Walking it out did not work. By midnight, a doctor was summoned for fear the unknown condition would keep us from our Puerto Rican travel. The condition, finally identified as gout, worsened. Crutches were needed and then a wheelchair. My dutiful wife stuck by me and toiled to get me to our meetings and the festivities planned for the convention.

I spent the balance of the Puerto Rico event hopping on one foot to get to desired locations. The

Third Time
I had another bout of gout. It was painful, but manageable. No total disablement, just total discomfort.

I eventually found freedom from gout. My life has been freed of disability for many years, but the lessons learned have been foremost in my mind ever since. I fear not for me, but for others. I am a deep and devoted believer that the magnificent machine, the human body, can stop the normal functioning at any time and bring about a collapse of earnings and financial despair.

As we focus on these thoughts of disablement, we recognize in ourselves and in people whom we know the freedom of the machinery that propels our lives. Each episode is a lesson that provides us a story to share with others; not for entertainment purposes, but for lessons to help us cope with the things that may go wrong and our normal activities are necessarily changed temporarily or permanently.

A disablement may therefore affect a sick or injured person, but also the people who depend on that disabled party to sustain the normal cadence of the life of the involved person.