Of course, Murphy’s Law means that if some sort of emergent situation is going to arise, it will happen late at night or on the weekend.

It’s been a year since that Saturday morning when my husband Jeremy woke up, certain he had an ear infection. He went to the walk-in clinic, where was prescribed an antibiotic and some nasal spray, and we spent a low-key day at home. He woke up later that night with an excruciating headache. We researched it and decided it was likely just a side-effect of the medications; he tried to go back to bed. At 4:00 in the morning Sunday, he woke me to announce he was calling 911 and would be having the first responders take him to the Emergency Room.

Working as an insurance broker and knowing full well the cost of an ER visit, his declaration just sounded like dollar signs to me. But he insisted. He’s a former EMT and fire fighter, as well as an athlete. He knew something was wrong. Three of the six EMTs who showed up were former colleagues of his – they insisted that nothing was really wrong, but he demanded a ride to the ER.

I secured childcare and arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes after he’d been triaged. He doesn’t remember my arrival – the bacterial meningitis had already affected his brain to the point that he didn’t recognize me nor was he able to follow simple commands from the ER staff.
It took a while to get the diagnosis, as they had to sedate him to perform a spinal tap. At one point a nurse yelled, “We should all be wearing masks!” That’s when they kicked me out of the room to wait. The sedation put him into a drug-induced coma, where he stayed for three days. His total ICU stay was only for five days, less than half of what the doctors initially expected.

This strain of bacterial meningitis is just in our world, according to the infectious disease specialists who treated my husband. His little ear infection was just a weak spot in his immune system and it allowed the bacteria to invade.

While at the hospital, Jeremy had a PIC line inserted so that fluids and medication could be administered more directly than through an IV. It stayed in for three additional weeks, so he had to self-administer those antibiotics and fluids himself during that time. He wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.

As a caregiver, his work requires lots of lifting and twisting and driving. For six weeks, he was allowed to do none of these things as his body slowly recovered. Being self-employed, he didn’t have sick time or other PTO to use up. And, sadly, he also didn’t have a disability policy in place. So not only did we have a $5250 bill at the hospital – that being the out of pocket maximum on his medical policy – but now we were a one-income household for a month and a half.

Disability Insurance is like most insurances: we only think about needing it when it’s too late. And it’s easy to think we’re invincible or “it’ll never happen to me.” Thing is – it can. A healthy 38 year old man can wake up one morning with an ear infection and then be in a coma 24 hours later. Six weeks with no income was difficult to manage, but that’s the last thing any family should worry about when trying to recover from any illness or injury.