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I waited to hear it crack...

Andy’s recent experience on his canal boat caused him to reflect on the importance of planning for the unforeseen. Here’s his story….

I steered our narrowboat, Elizabeth, carefully into the 6' 6" wide lock that Sue had prepared for us, taking the trouble to avoid scraping the newly painted sides. As we glided into the lock Sue closed one of the two gates behind me and set off to walk around the lock side to close the other.

"Don't worry, I'll get it," I called as I put my foot onto the brass folding step halfway up the superstructure, and pulled myself up onto the roof before stepping up the few inches onto the lock side as I'd done many times before.

I pulled the second gate to and stepped towards the white-painted handles of the steel rung ladder that sits against every lock wall. I swung myself around, holding the ladder with my right hand, and stepped onto the top rung a few inches below the top of the lock ready to lower myself back onto the roof of the boat and then back to the rear deck.

As I put my weight on my right foot ready to swing down a couple more steps before stepping onto Elizabeth's roof, it suddenly slipped off the rung and I crashed down the gap between the clammy lock wall and the boat. I still had hold of the steel rail, and as I fell my right arm twisted as I took my body weight onto it. It happened very fast, but in that moment as I hung there trying to get a foothold, I remember waiting for the crack as the bone in my upper arm gave way under the pressure. I really thought it was going to give way.

I managed to swing my left foot onto the side of the boat and find a purchase before pulling myself onto Elizabeth's roof from where I dropped down onto the back deck and the moment was over. Fortunately, my arm had survived.

Except that it wasn't, as I was immediately consumed by a wave of nausea as the pain wracked through my arm. I realised that I'd come very close to disaster. If I'd fallen further I would have ended up in the deep turbulent lock water, crushed between the lock wall and the boat hull, with little on which to grip to pull myself out. Not a good outcome.

Hot shower and ibuprofen

Sue had seen the whole thing. I managed to keep control of the boat as the lock filled, then to steer out of the lock. We pulled over to the bank as I tried to assess the damage. She prescribed a hot shower and ibuprofen, which helped. Gradually the pain subsided, but it had been a close call. I reflected that it could easily have put my arm out of action for several weeks, and how life can change in an instant.

Reviewing these words a few days later, my arm is still painful to twist and I've not been able to sleep resting on my right side, and my ribs can feel the results of the incident too. On the whole, though, I got away lightly.

Dangerous gardens

It's interesting how debilitating injuries can occur in the most trivial of circumstances. I recently had a visit from a client who hobbled into our offices with his foot encased in a protector. He'd broken a bone and although well on the way to recovery, it had clearly been a painful incident. He told me he had slipped on a kerb in his garden.

Much more painful was the injury another friend sustained when he snapped his Achilles tendon, resulting in having to wear a cast for a number of weeks. He described the excruciating pain that he endured and it wasn't nice. I winced listening to him. He lives a very active life so I asked how he'd done it. In the garden, he replied. Dangerous places, these gardens.

Planning for calamity

It's not for nothing that we put Safety Planning as the first item in our financial planning checklist. The after-effects of a serious accident, injury or illness can be life-changing and financially devastating. Sometimes illnesses creep up on us unawares over a period of time, and sometimes they occur in the blink of an eye. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Fortunately, these occurrences aren't all that common. But I'm long enough in the tooth to have handled many claims on policies set up to cover such events, all of them completely unforeseeable when the plans were made. I've seen clients suffer from heart attacks, strokes, brain tumours, long-term stress, and many other conditions in addition to accidents and calamities like the one I narrowly missed. In every case, the support and financial assistance provided by a comprehensive package of insurance protection was hugely invaluable and greatly welcomed.

We all think that 'it won't happen to us,' and none of us likes paying insurance premiums for a policy that may never be needed. But without it, your carefully constructed financial plan for your future independence could be swept away in a few short seconds.

Start your planning the way we do; by asking yourself, "What could go wrong?" and then make sure you're properly covered. In our world, this is the first non-negotiable part of the essential work we do for our clients for a very good reason. Make sure it's a priority for you, too.


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