Jean’s financial cushion eases his road to recovery


Jean’s financial cushion eases his road to recovery

Neuromyelitis Optica shares a number of clinical and radiological features with multiple sclerosis, but is very aggressive, causing the immune system to attack the optic nerves and spinal column, causing blindness and paralysis. In Jean’s case it prompted multiple attacks and also led to treatment complications and infections in his heart and chest cavity. It was only classified as a disease entity in its own right in 2004 after the discovery of a novel, pathogenic autoantibody in a subset of patients.

Disease attacks Jean’s immune system

For Jean, the onset of the disease was marked by a month-and-a-half of headaches, dizziness, an inability to urinate and several emergency admissions. Jean was positively diagnosed on 31 January 2014. His initial paralysis and blindness were accompanied by extreme tactile sensitivity. “Whenever somebody touched me, I’d feel extreme pain as if someone was burning me with red coals. The treatment involved wiping out my immune system using an experimental biological drug.”

Jean’s Capital Disability and Severe Illness Benefits kick in

“I received the payouts just after I went through a particularly difficult time. A time when doctors thought I'd possibly never see or walk again, let alone work. The payouts provided comfort from financial concerns in a time where I needed to focus on learning to walk again,” he says. “I had hit an all-time low. Prayer, a compassionate nurse and two inspirational songs called ‘’Go the Distance,” by Michael Bolton and “Courageous” by Casting Crowns, inspired me to decide that failure was not an option. The question was not – Why this, why mewhy not someone else, but rather how do I deal with this?” Jean says

Jean defies medical predictions

On 8 April 2015, Jean was able to move his toes for the first time during a physiotherapy session and slowly his sight returned. “From then on my recovery was remarkable,” he says. He was finally out of his wheelchair on 28 April 2015, soon after his hospital discharge.

Jean meets his wife-to-be, Suzy

Five months later Jean met his future wife Suzy, through a mutual friend. ”Suzy is a personal trainer who specialises in rehabilitation. I was learning to walk again and I thought she’d never take me with all my baggage. So, I called her up and we went on a date. Six months later I asked her to marry me and, incredibly, she said ‘YES’. I worked out that in the first three months we knew each other, I spent 21% of those nights in hospital - and yet she stuck around!” he enthuses.

Jean is now a first-time father. The 38-year-old believes that faith, hope and love from family, friends and hospital staff at the Pretoria hospital where he was treated, enabled his medical miracle. His positive attitude and determination during his rehabilitation, combined with the latest available biological medicines, saw Jean back on his feet, regaining the 18kg he’d lost and returning to fitness. Today Jean’s in a new job as Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser, HIV counselling and Testing, at the Foundation for Professional Development.

Medical cover supports Jean throughout

“Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) were brilliant throughout. Without them I wouldn’t be alive today. Their Health Touch team giving me access to a dedicated person to take care of me, was amazing. A Clinical Manager took my very costly, experimental Rituximab monoclonal antibody therapy drug to DHMS’s clinical review panel and kept me up-to-date, right up to the successful funding outcome. I still go in for two, six-hour infusions every six months to reduce inflammation and suppress my immune system. I’ve been in remission for two years now and have DHMS to thank for it,” he says.

“I’ve worked out that my treatment totalled to around R4 million in hospitalisation, drug, surgical procedure and consultation costs over a two-year period,” he says. “There are very few people in the world who can afford that medical cost.  I am truly grateful to DHMS for the cover I had,” he adds.


Discovery Life Limited. Registration number 1966/003901/06, is a registered long-term insurer, and an authorised financial services and registered credit provider, NCR Registration number NCRCP3555. Product rules, terms and conditions apply. This article is meant only as information and should not be taken as financial advice. For tailored financial advice, please contact your financial adviser.


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