As an emergency room physician, Dr. Grant Lashley was on the front lines treating patients for COVID-19 last year. “I had several patients die from COVID-19 that I had to pronounce and several others who required intubation and had to be placed on ventilators,” Lashley says. He never imagined how COVID-19 would impact his own life journey.

In April, just as the country was starting to understand how serious the virus was, Lashley started to feel symptoms but didn’t think much of them at first. “Around seven o’clock every night I’d just start to feel bad. I didn’t have a cough or fever and by morning, I felt fine,” Lashley says.

After a few days, his wife, Melisa Harrington, convinced him to get a test. When it came back positive, Lashley initially thought he’d self-isolate and ride it out. But he was having some shortness of breath and Harrington, who is also a doctor, pushed his doctors to do lab work and a chest X-ray. What they found shocked them — his oxygen levels were dangerously low. Within hours, Lashley reluctantly agreed to be intubated. “That was the last thing I remember for 39 days.”

FROM PROVIDER TO PATIENT

“My wife became a single mom overnight. I missed birthdays and our anniversary,” Lashley says. To top it all off, he also had a stroke. “On Mother’s Day, the specialist told my wife to consider taking me off life support,” Lashley recalls with emotion. “She told the specialist, ‘Let’s not stop yet.’”

In the coming days, a critical care specialist recommended trying a steroid treatment, which would soon thereafter become a standard treatment for COVID-19 patients. It worked, starting Lashley along a new life path.

A NEW CHAPTER

Despite what he’d just been through, Lashley woke up ready to get back to life — but quickly learned that he faced a new reality. “I couldn’t stand, walk or go to the restroom on my own,” Lashley says. Someone else even had to feed him.

Harrington got her husband into a rehabilitation center at Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of the best in the country. In late July, after nearly six weeks, Lashley walked out the front doors on his own, joyfully reuniting with his wife and three young children, Wyatt and twins Cody and Weston. It was the first time he had been able to hug them since April.

Those first steps out were the beginning of a new chapter in Lashley’s life. Although he’s optimistic, there are still challenges. He’s continuing his physical therapy at home, and there are lingering effects, including shortness of breath. Perhaps most concerning, the stroke resulted in Dr. Lashley having limited use of his hands, which may prevent him from returning to the job he was doing in emergency medicine before he got sick.

THE FINANCIAL IMPACT

Fifteen years ago, Lashley and Harrington started working with Tyson Cromwell, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. As part of their plan, they put life insurance and disability income insurance in place. While Lashley was in the intensive care unit, Harrington contacted Cromwell to discuss options. Cromwell was able to assure Harrington that thanks to the planning they had done, the family was still on track to be OK financially.

“If Tyson hadn’t created our plan, we would be in big trouble. My wife and I are savers, not spenders — but since April 19, I’ve had no way to make any income,” Lashley says. “Even more importantly, Tyson and his wife were instrumental in finding sitters for the kids and organizing community members to send meals. Knowing my wife had them to support her and give her that level of care is truly heartwarming. I know Tyson has our back.”

Lashley’s disability income insurance is currently providing the family with monthly payments that help make up for income he’s unable to earn while he recovers. In addition, his life insurance policy includes a benefit known as a waiver of premium. “The benefit provides that if you’re totally disabled for at least six consecutive months, Northwestern Mutual will waive that premium for as long as you remain totally disabled and allow you to convert the term policy to permanent insurance,” Cromwell explains. “In a way, it’s as if the company is paying the premium on your behalf.”

This means that in addition to his disability insurance benefit, Lashley is also getting a permanent life insurance policy that will accumulate cash value that he could use during his life. And, as long as the policy remains in place, it will pay a death benefit someday.1 “Whether Grant lives to be 70, 80, 90 or 100, it will provide significant value to his family,” Cromwell says.

THE SILVER LINING

“For me, the silver lining is that our story’s not over,” Lashley says. “I get to see my children ride horses and try things that I didn’t do as a child. People don’t like to talk about it, but a lot of those things often include a financial aspect.”

Knowing the financial aspect is covered during his disability, Lashley can spend more time dreaming about all the things he wants to do in his new stage of life. “In general, I want to be outside more. Our family is planning to hike the Grand Canyon,” he says. “Right now, I’m relearning second and third grades with my children — and that's its own treatment in itself! But I’m grateful because I know the outcome could have been much worse.”

Life may look a little different than before COVID-19, but Lashley has a positive outlook. “I still have dreams in life and things I want to achieve. They may be different than before, but I also have dreams for my children and for the safety of my wife and my family. My plan is to be here as long as I can be for them.”

1 Utilizing the accumulated value through policy loans, surrenders or cash withdrawals will reduce the death benefit and may necessitate greater outlay than anticipated and/or result in an unexpected taxable event. Assumes a non-Modified Endowment Contract (MEC).

This article contains profiles of certain Northwestern Mutual clients, their personal financial needs and how Northwestern Mutual met their needs. The personal financial needs and results of the clients shown in the article may not be representative of the experience of other clients. Working with a Northwestern Mutual financial representative or other service provider is not a guarantee as to future investment success, policy issuance or benefits payable.

Statements made by the clients are their personal opinions and don’t necessarily represent those of Northwestern Mutual.

Disability income insurance policies contain some contractual features and optional benefits that may not be available in all states. The ability to perform the substantial and material duties of your occupation is only one of the factors that determine eligibility for disability benefits. These policies also contain exclusions, limitations and reduction of benefit provisions. Eligibility for disability income insurance, additional policy benefits and qualification for benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis. For costs and complete details of coverage, please contact a Northwestern Mutual financial representative.

"Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries."

"After Surviving COVID-19, This Former ER Doctor Is Pursuing New Dreams.” To be used with form ICC16.TT.NCDI.(0916) or state equivalent. Not all contracts and optional benefits are available in all states.

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