"It'll never happen to me" Nigel Vardy offers some useful advice
'It'll never happen to me' is a phrase I hear time and time again in this world. For some unknown reason, people hold the perception that everyone else gets ill or injured, and that they are somehow inviolate. I once starred in a Channel 4 programme called 'It happened to me’, because it really did, and in a major way..
Working in the outdoors is a wonderful way to live your life. All the fresh air, mountains, rivers and open country you could ever wish for will come your way (as well as rain, cloud and snow!) Safety is paramount, and we should all be well trained in what disciplines we work in and teach. I felt well trained and ready for a daring alpine style climb on Mt McKinley some years ago, but that didn't stop the weather doing its best to freeze me to death at 20,000ft. I was lucky enough to be rescued, but suffered severe frostbite injuries to my face, hands and feet. Two years of hospital care followed, where I lost all my toes, fingertips and nose. This included over a year off work, followed by weeks here and there for skin grafts and reconstructive surgery. Fifteen years on I still have podiatry on my stubby feet to keep them in condition. Thankfully I was well insured and all my medical and hospital bills were covered (over $40,000 for two weeks care in the USA alone). My travel insurance paid the medical bills, but my sickness and accident cover kept me afloat. I cannot stress enough, the necessity to prepare yourself for illness or injury in the outdoors. I wonder how many of you have even considered it?
It's a depressing thought that one in three of us will suffer cancer at some point in our lives. There are many other diseases and complaints, which can leave us in no position to work for weeks, months or even years. Whatever happens to you, those bills will not stop coming. It's vital to be protected, but a word of warning - specialist advice is required. Many companies run a mile when they find you're a mountaineer or outdoor Instructor. I've been turned down more times than I can think because of my passion. Companies have also changed their policies, and suddenly decided that any activity requiring 'climbing with ropes' too dangerous to cover. I once received a policy update with a list of changes a mile long. In fact I struggled to find what the company did cover for my money. When I contacted them, they seemed surprised that I questioned their changes. I had been open and honest with them, and even filled in an extra sheet for their version of 'Extreme Sports’ only a few months before. Please read the small print before you sign anything and be absolutely sure that you are correctly covered. Do make sure you're up front and honest with any insurer, as any future claim could be compromised by the fact that your initial application is incorrect.
When a policy pays is also something worth looking into. Some are weeks, some are months. Can you survive six weeks or six months without any money coming in? Statuary Sick Pay certainly isn't going to pay all the bills, so think what your outgoings are and write them all down. You'll be surprised how much those monthly direct debits come to. The last thing you want when you’re ill. is the stress of your home or vehicle being repossessed and people knocking at your door. Policies exist which can cover Mortgage, Family, Income Protection and Critical Illness cover, and I would advise anyone working in the outdoors to seriously consider them.
When I was lying in bed covered in frostbite, with parts of my body dying before my eyes, the one thing I didn’t have to worry about was my finances. It’s easy to say now, but at the time I had more than enough on my plate…