The unity that got Craig through

Caroline found inner strength

Caroline Nolly says she had to find some real deep inner strength to get through the adversity “and I now know that I am a stronger person because of this.

The days in Cuba were long and many days I was only able to visit Craig for 10-15 minutes at a time. In a country that is 60 years behind the rest of the developed world and speaks Spanish, we had to find our own food, water and basic supplies and those simple tasks became our survival mode.

“Richard and Grazia were my rocks, I cannot speak highly enough about them both and the challenges that we all endured and just got on with it, but what other choice was there? I could not have coped in Cuba on my own and don’t even want to think about what the consequences could have been had I not have had them with me during this time. Our children were also fantastic support, Luke stepped up and took over making sure every one of our kids and extended family was kept in the loop as to what was going on. They wanted to come over when Craig got sick but I knew they were going to be more help being at home looking after one another at that stage. It was very difficult for them to deal with being so far away and I am proud of how they bonded together. This has made them all a lot closer also’.

Having our friends Phil and Robyn Hinton visit Craig in the hospital in Florida, having someone to share the experience with was amazing.

“At times like this you also realise how much the love and support of extended family and friends is needed and everyone has been outstanding and I can’t thank everyone enough. This support was so important in the tough days and boy there were a few.

“When Craig got the infection was the worst night of my whole life. Seeing your husband whom you love more than anything fighting for his life, so ill, in such a horrible environment was unbearable. I still remember Richard saying to me: ‘Caroline you do know things aren’t good and Craig may not pull through this.’ I just said: “I don’t want to hear that Richard, he will.

Caroline took over

There were a lot of tears, a lot of lonely times and a lot of challenges in Cuba and I thought once we got to the States all would be better, that Craig was now going to be ok and we would be heading home before long. This wasn’t the case and during nearly five weeks in hospital there I became confident in taking over the general nursing duties to get Craig well enough for home.  I had our children there for 3 weeks of this which was fantastic support and after they left was the toughest time as now I was really on my own. There were some difficult days. I had to get him to eat, sit and walk to get strong enough for the journey home.  Days were again challenges and heading home to my hotel room by myself at night was not something I looked forward to”. 

“Even after finally getting back home to NZ there was still a lot of nursing to be done and I was fortunate enough to have great support from my work and was able to take four months off work to look after Craig. I helped with food nutrition, wound dressing, exercise and keeping Craig in a good ‘head’ space as this was a major concern after the traumatic event he had dealt with. I am really proud of how Craig has coped during this time.”

Grazia Toon says the conditions of aftercare, hygiene and cleanliness at the Cuba hospital were almost non-existent. “Caroline and Richard carried out a lot of Craig’s bedside care each day, it was them or nothing. Sometimes he was in rooms where there were dying or critically people. Caroline often had to wait for an hour just to get 15 minutes with Craig. She hand-washed Craig’s laundry daily as there was no laundromat in the town and very few hospital supplies.”

“We have all been on many holidays together in all parts of NZ and the world, but nothing prepared us for what happened in Cuba. We came to rely fully on each other and without that, the outcomes may well have been different.”

Plan for the worst outcome

Richard Toon has this to say:

“It was amazing to see the travel insurance kick in for us like it did. Really the only bill we came back to was a pretty massive one from Spark, several thousand dollars. but a drop in the ocean compared to the full claim.

And then we had the Income Protection cover. We’re a mature business but Craig was 14 months off work and we had to survive financially, both the business and Craig personally. I am very proud that we have done so.”

So my travel insurance message is this, for anyone who is interested:

It takes some thinking about the potential risks, not just a quick once—over and telling yourself what you want to hear but an in-depth look at the what-ifs. It takes some careful planning to remove those risks with the right policy. The cost of cover is such a small amount compared to what you will pay for the travel.

As a group try to have the same company insure you and if you do need help, stay calm, know that it will be two steps forward, one step back, and play exactly what’s in front of you rather than look too far ahead.

It’s the same with business planning risks: plan for the worst outcome because then nothing will stop you in your growth. When I first started in the business and took out my income protection insurance I had this amazing feeling of power knowing that no matter what happened, even personal disability, I would succeed.

The travel insurance people are a big corporate but each and every person involved, from the call centre, doctors, and key account manager were invested in Craig’s healthy return. They cared about us. It wasn’t all about money.”