Illness and isolation
Jack* has always been independent. The self-employed crop and sheep farmer lives with his wife and two children in a rural town more than 420 kilometres from Perth — and 45 kilometres from their nearest town. It's a lifestyle that involves self-sufficiency, long working days and physically gruelling work — but Jack wouldn't have it any other way.
In May 2017, Jack suddenly experienced heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. He was admitted to the local hospital where he was diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia — a potentially life-threatening condition. Jack's medical team acted quickly, inserting a defibrillator and a pacemaker.
After further treatment in October to help control his irregular heartbeat, Jack began to get electric shocks from his defibrillator. Living in an isolated, rural area made the thought of any further cardiac events frightening. He developed anxiety and was physically and mentally fatigued as a result of his condition. Two minutes shovelling left him exhausted. He couldn't drive and was unable to walk for more than 200 metres.
A key part of Jack's treatment was keeping his heart rate down, so he had to step back from his physically demanding routine. Jack has a very supportive family and he stayed with his mother, who lives closer to the hospital, while he was receiving treatment. During this time, his wife remained on the property, doing maintenance and looking after the children.
An understanding, supportive team
As an AMP Life customer, Jack contacted us to claim on his income protection cover while he was off work. His claim was processed quickly, and he received regular payments to support him financially while he was unable to earn an income from his farm. At the same time, we reviewed Jack's case to see how else we could help him.
Matthew David was part of Jack's Recovery Specialist Team. He explained that even though Jack was only 49 at the time, he worried he would never be well enough to resume working on the farm.
"He knew he had a life-threatening condition, which he never expected to recover from. He thought he'd never be able to return to farming again. It was really weighing on him mentally."
Matthew worked closely with Christine Phillips, Jack's Case Manager, to find the right exercise physiologists who could help Jack with work conditioning, strength and cardiovascular training. They also made sure the provider would be able to offer these services remotely.
"Because of his remote location, we chose a rehabilitation provider with telehealth and video conferencing tools embedded in their work practices," said Christine. "The provider assessed Jack online to understand his condition and his normal work duties. They then tailored a program for him."
As well as needing to do his rehabilitation at home, Jack had to monitor his heart rate to make sure he was exercising at a safe level. So AMP Life provided a heart rate monitor, a treadmill and a home gym program with gym sessions delivered through video conferencing tools.
"The treadmill and heart rate monitor allowed Jack to track his heart rate and level of exertion," said Matthew. "His heart rate monitor data was then sent to his cardiologist, so they could work together to make sure Jack was progressing at a safe level."
Through-out this time, Jack also had the support of his Recovery Specialist Team, who contacted him regularly and encouraged him through his recovery.
The road to recovery
After five months, Jack's physical fatigue reduced significantly and he was putting in full days of modified farming duties, with rests in the afternoon. His range of movement, core endurance and cardiovascular health improved considerably. The Recovery Specialist Team also helped him rotate his work tasks, rotating from physical jobs to mental tasks to help keep his heart rate at a moderate level and enable him to achieve more each day.
Today, Jack is self-sufficient and successfully running his farm again.
"Jack is no longer on claim," said Christine. "His heart condition is permanent, so he will need to keep monitoring his heart and rotating his work duties. But he's been able to return in the best possible way he can to his best life. We've given him all the tools he needs to change the way he lives and works."
Jack also knows that if he needs more support in the future, AMP Life are always here to help him.
*The customer's name has been changed to protect his anonymity.
** This has been provided as an example only to illustrate the potential benefit of taking out income protection cover, and should not be relied upon as indicative of the benefits you will receive under the income protection benefit.
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