As a 24 year-old AFL champion, when Sam O’Sullivan began to feel a bit off colour one afternoon in 2015 he didn’t think much of it. Assuming he probably just had a virus, Sam decided to take himself to a doctor when his symptoms become too severe to bear. When it became clear that Sam’s body wasn’t responding to any antibiotics, the doctors had no choice but to perform exploratory surgery.
What they found was a rare, flesh eating superbug called Necrotizing Myositis with no know cause or cure. What began as a routine operation became an urgent lifesaving mission lead by a team of one hundred doctors.
After five days of being in an induced coma, thankfully Sam managed to recover and is one of only a handful of people in the world to have survived the virus.
A few years back the Rising Tide team advised Sam to take out income protection insurance. Despite being young and healthy at the time and with very little reason to think that might change in the foreseeable future, Sam thankfully took the Financial advice and went ahead and took out the cover.
We sat down with Sam to talk to him about his experience and how income protection insurance has aided his recovery. Here’s what he said:
Your amazing recovery from Necrotizing Myositis has been widely reported on in the media. What was it like waking up from an induced coma and being told that you might never walk again?
It was a massive shock. When I woke up I thought it was only two hours after my operation because I went in for what I thought was a routine procedure and woke up five days later out of an induced coma. So I guess I was just really shocked and really trying to come to terms with what my new life might be like. I was extremely upset and extremely worried about the unknown. I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep my leg or not and I was really upset that I might not play footy again, or ever run again. Being a really active person where a lot of my life is based around running and jumping and footy and sport, it was really, really worrying.
You seem like a naturally positive person. How did you maintain this when you found yourself presented with such horrifying circumstances?
Once I came to terms with everything and how many operations I had to go through I then had to make a decision to stay positive in order to make it through. Initially you think the world is going to end and then it changes to thinking well I’m alive and I’ve still got my leg. So I tried to focus on all the things I could do rather than all the things I couldn’t do. That helped me a lot and got me through.
Once your reconstructive surgery was successful, how did you motivate yourself through the rehabilitation process?
By that stage I could really see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that really does help you because can see the process you need to go through to get to your end goal. You can imagine yourself running again and playing footy again so you just focus on that to get through.
When are we going to see you back on the footy field?
I recently had another operation about six weeks ago to get some more mobility back in my foot. I’ve been in plaster ever since and I probably won’t be up and running for another six to eight months. But next week I get my plaster off and then I’m in a moon boot for another six. Then after that I should be able to walk short distances. You know drive the car, walk to the car and then gradually build that up over the next six to eight months. Once I go through all that and I stick to the program I should be able to get back on the field.
Did you ever imagine in a million years that you might be struck down by a rare, flesh-eating bacteria?
Uh no. I always thought I was pretty invincible. You know I’d sort of fly in to a footy contest without ever caring for my safety so to even contemplate having an infection like I did was out if this world. Those are the sorts of things that happen to other people not me! The whole thing has actually been a pretty big learning curve because I look at people who have had a few things happen to them and I can understand the things that they’re going through both physically and mentally. For me, it’s actually I reckon bettered my life and enlightened me so I feel like I’m an even better person than what I was before this.
Rising Tide helped you set up your income protection insurance. How did having this cover in place assist with your recovery?
I wouldn’t really be living a life without it really. I actually looked up what the benefits are through Centrelink because I haven’t been able to work and it’s almost nothing. If I hadn’t been advised to take out the cover by Matt and Sammy from Rising Tide I would be in serious trouble financially. It really has been absolutely huge for my quality of life while my leg is healing, just having a bit of money to live and pay of any debts or bills. Getting through life with me being out of work has been unbelievable.
Did you ever have any doubts about taking out income protection insurance?
When I was living out of home I remember the income protection was coming out of my account and I could barely afford a coffee the next day so in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe I should get rid of it but I was assured by Matty and Sammy that it was the best option. They told me that since I was playing a high level of footy there was a risk I would get injured and not be able to work so if that did happen then this would be in place to cover me. In the end it’s really paid off and it’s been sensational.
On a scale of 1-10, how glad are you that you did decide get income protection insurance?
Most people are aware of income protection insurance but not everyone takes the leap and actually ensures they have the right cover for them. What advice would you give to these people, particularly people your own age?
For me it was all about getting injured so when I couldn’t work because of my leg obviously I utilised it. But I couldn’t recommend it enough. Even if you’re working in an office job you could get hit by a car or anything out of this world and having insurance in place if any of those things happen is going to help you big time. I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Maybe the late Paul Walker.
Lastly, a very “Melbournian” question…what’s your coffee order?
Latte, one sugar.