Since his shock triple heart bypass last year, Vitality Sales Director Athos Rushovich has returned to work with a renewed passion to spread the word far and wide about the value of financial planning

When Athos Rushovich found out earlier last year that he needed open heart surgery it understandably turned his life upside down. A dedicated long-distance runner since his teens and no stranger to ultramarathons or 100-mile runs, Vitality’s Director of Specialist Health Sales and Dedicated Distribution felt almost bulletproof for much of his life - and that didn’t change during his early 50s.

“A triple heart bypass is typically associated with overweight people of a certain age, who smoke,” he told COVER magazine in an article. “At the age of 56, I am none of those things. I have never smoked and always lived a physically active lifestyle.”

Despite having worked in the protection and health insurance industry for almost 20 years, even Athos was caught off guard from a financial planning perspective. “Events like these are truly indiscriminate, so being properly prepared is critical,” he said.

He found himself “woefully short” when it came to having practical things such as an up-to-date will in place or a lasting power of attorney. “There were so many aspects I hadn’t considered: Am I an organ doner? Do I have a ‘do not resuscitate’ order so my wife and family are not burdened with the decision to turn off the machines? I even went to the length of choosing what music I wanted played at my funeral.”

It is not just the wonders of modern medicine that Athos has learned about during his experience. Alongside existential considerations spurred by a near-death encounter, he has returned to the industry with a refreshed outlook on what we do as a profession.

“Not only have I realised first-hand that what we offer as an industry are great products that do what they are supposed to. We have a strong core purpose as an organisation – to make people healthier and protect and enhance their lives.

Considerations such as these have brought home the true value of financial planning to Athos. “Even if it costs money, it’s worth it,” he adds. “My plea is that people consider the amount they would save by having a trust in place to ensure their wealth is protected for the next generation. And that they have the right cover in place, such as Income Protection to ensure they can continue to pay the bills, for example, if they are self-employed. Or severity-based Serious Illness Cover so they get a lump sum pay-out that allows a client to get access to a payment earlier, based on the impact a diagnosis will have on their lifestyle.”

Having experienced it himself, Athos’ enthusiasm is driven by a desire to tell his story to raise awareness of the importance of taking out private medical insurance (PMI) and financial protection. His encounter with his own heart condition has in turn served as a powerful reminder of what’s at the beating heart of an industry focused on much more than just making a profit. “We can get so sucked into measuring the numbers in business, but the role we play in society should not be underestimated. It’s a really profound and important thing that we do.”

Read the full interview with Athos at Vitality Insights Hub