When 73-year-old insurance financial adviser Dale Cavell-Clarke was shot during a hijacking in 2017, he spent a month in ICU and two more months in hospital. His medical scheme cover went a long way in aiding his recovery from this traumatic event.
Dale Cavell-Clarke vividly remembers the day he was shot. “I’d been out for a run and later parked outside my office to change, when I saw a well-dressed man coming towards me. It was a public holiday, so there weren’t that many people around. I thought nothing of it as people approach me all the time, be it for water, money, a job or directions. I had just opened the car door and the engine was still running. He put his hand into the car. It was covered with a shawl which he pulled back to reveal a 9 mm pistol. He said, ‘Get out of the car or I’ll kill you’.”
“It seemed like a reasonable offer, so I got out of the car,” Dale quips.
However, Dale refused to get into the back seat. “He said he would take me somewhere safe. I told him there was no way I was going with him and said to let me go and sit on the steps outside my office. He had the gun pushed against my stomach and said if I was lying about the steps, he’d kill me. That was an anxious moment, as I realised that we had earlier closed off the steps with a grill gate, but he did not appear to notice.”
“I realised I was negotiating for my life”
“He then told me he couldn’t trust me not to call the police if he left me behind,” Dale continues. “I said it would take them 20 minutes to get here. At that stage, he had me against the nearby wall. I was strangely calm but realised I was negotiating for my life. Three security guards walked past on their way to work, unaware of what was going on. He ordered me not to talk to them. Of all the heroic things I might have done, I raised my hand and used my thumb and forefinger to indicate that he had a gun – at which point he pulled the trigger.”
The insurance adviser reeled from the shock of being shot. “My first thought was, ‘I’m going to die at 70’. There was no fear and very little pain. In fact, as I watched him get into my car and roar off, I was thinking, ‘Right, I have been shot. What do I do next?’ He must have passed the incoming police van, hailed by the security guards, on his way out.”
“The ambulance arrived immediately,” Dale says. “After that it became like a film script: ‘Caucasian male, 90 kg, blood pressure 90/120’. My wife was called to the scene and brought along my Discovery Health Medical Scheme membership card.”
“After that everything happened incredibly quickly.”
“There was a surgeon and an anaesthetist, fully gowned, waiting for me as I was wheeled into casualty. The first thing the surgeon said to me was, ‘Sign these papers’, and later suggested that inserting the catheter ‘might hurt’. Then it was back to the movies for my mind, as I watched the passage lights flicker on the way to the theatre where they lifted me on to the operating table and began cutting off my expensive running gear.”
Dale, who lives in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, was admitted to Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in the Midlands, less than a kilometre from where he was shot. He admits wryly that, “You leave your dignity at the door in such situations”, but quickly adds that the doctors and especially the nurses who cared for him were magnificent. He remembers nurses gathering around his hospital bed and singing to him in isiZulu when he was “upgraded” from ICU to a general ward. “It was to celebrate me having made it.” They also visited him in the general ward and later in a step-down facility where he was recuperating.
Full medical scheme support meant no worries for Dale
Dale had three more operations to tidy up the internal wounds, reconnect his intestines and close the external colostomy wound when the bag and catheter were removed. “I went home after a month at the Wembley House sub-acute step-down facility, but inexplicably began to suffer blackouts. They eventually discovered that I was merely dehydrated. I wasn’t drinking enough water!” he explains.
His experience of the Discovery Health Medical Scheme’s support? “I honestly would not be alive were it not for their support. They were so good that I only thought of my bills four months after the shooting. Everything was paid for. The St Anne’s Hospital bill alone was about R888 000. If you add in my surgeries and physiotherapy, as well as seeing a psychologist and dietitian, it all comes close to R2 million. I saw other patients seriously concerned about how they were going to pay for their care. Some left the hospital because they couldn’t afford it any longer. The doctors kept saying my bills were all taken care of. I was left to focus on getting well.”
“Months later, some of my doctors visited me at work to see how I was doing – they said ‘to see the miracle’ – which I credit in large part to the peace of mind that my Discovery Health Medical Scheme cover gave me when I needed it most.”
The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.
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