Luke's Story

Critical illness cover for children

Having a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is every parent’s worst nightmare. Here, we explain what happened to one family after their baby boy was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and how having financial protection enabled them to take time off work when his condition worsened.

January 2, 2017

The nightmare of a cancer diagnosis

It should have been one of the happiest times of their lives, but just six months after James and Virag’s son Luke was born, doctors told the couple their baby had grade 3 anaplastic ependymoma, a rare type of malignant brain tumour. The couple had taken him to their doctor a few times after they noticed that he had started holding his head on one side, and scratching dry skin on his head. James said: “Looking back, these were symptoms, but at the time they were easily dismissed. Our world went from normal to disastrous very quickly.”Once his brain tumour had been diagnosed, Luke needed emergency neurosurgery three times, followed by planned neurosurgery. He was in hospital for four months and had chemotherapy treatment for between one and four days every fortnight for the following year. Tragically, the treatment proved ineffective, and the tumour recurred. Luke was given months to live.

Financial help when they needed it most

At this point, James, who worked in logistics, decided to stop working. The couple’s joint critical illness policy, which they had only taken out a year and a half prior to Luke’s cancer diagnosis, covered their child as well as them. Many critical illness policies do this as standard until your children reach the age of 21, although some may charge an additional fee, so always read the small print if you want a policy which offers protection for the whole family. James had originally arranged the policy to ensure that they could cover costs if one of them was unable to work due to illness. However, the cover provided them with invaluable financial support whilst they cared for their son. Luke went on to have targeted radiotherapy, which showed positive results. However, the tumour recurred, and a further 30 radiotherapy treatments failed to have any impact. He needed surgery again, and had to have another operation last summer. The critical illness insurance policy was the safety net the family needed at a terrible time. Not only did it allow James to give up work and focus on his son’s treatment, but it meant the couple could buy a bigger car for all the equipment and supplies Luke needed both in hospital and at the hospice. Even though they had a relatively small amount of cover, and only paid low monthly premiums, James said the funds received from the policy made a “big difference” to the family. He found the claims process simple, with the main wait being for the consultant to complete the relevant forms. The lump sum was paid with interest once these forms were submitted.

An ongoing battle

It wasn’t just the cancer itself which had a huge impact on Luke. As it affected his brain, there were lots of other physical effects too. He suffered a stroke which caused right-sided weakness and facial palsy, he was unable to walk, and his sight and hearing were affected too. Luke was on ventilation for four weeks, and suffered from Bulbar Palsy, a pathological condition in which the nerve cells responsible for movement are impaired. Sadly for the family, Luke had a further MRI scan which revealed four new tumours, and further treatment was no longer an option. They focused on enjoying the time Luke had left, organising days out that they could all enjoy, without worrying about the cost.“The impact of critical illness – whether adult or child – varies, and can be wide ranging and long lasting,” said James.

Why protection matters

Serious illness is something we all hope will never affect our children, but the fact is that thousands of parents every year have to come to terms with a devastating diagnosis. Although no amount of money can ever alleviate the emotional distress of seeing your child going through often invasive and painful treatment, it can at least give you one less worry if you need to stop work to care for them, or if you need to make adaptations to your home.

In memory of Luke Wheeler–Mezei.

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