Paying it forward...
I was born and raised in San Francisco. At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a dentist because I loved science, helping people, and working with my hands. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Genetics and Psychology I went on to the Dugoni School of Dentistry (UOP) in San Francisco and later pursed advanced dentistry dealing with jaw pain and full mouth rehabilitation as well orthodontics.
While practicing dentistry in San Francisco, I served as a dentist in the Medical Dental Squadron of the Air Force Reserve 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beale Air Force Base. Our mission was to ensure all airmen were medically cleared for deployment.
One day, right after returning from a temporary Air Force duty assignment in Alabama, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life. An elderly man ran a red light and slammed into my car. It blew out a disc in my back L5-S1, causing tremendous pain in my back and legs. I couldn’t sit or stand comfortably while working on patients.
Four months after the accident, I was no longer able to practice dentistry. It was devastating. Fortunately, I purchased a professional disability policy right out of dental school that allowed my family to stay afloat financially over the years.
I thank my disability agent for helping me to understand the importance of protecting my income. He has been an inspiration for me to help our clients and their families.
After stopping clinical practice, I was fortunate enough to find a position at Invisalign, a dental technology
start-up at the time. It was there, that I really began to understand technology companies and began to love everything about the tech industry and Silicon Valley.
Despite the pain, I was managing and looking into back surgery in the hopes of eventually returning to private practice.
Soon after, my mom was diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer. My own pain, surgery and basically my entire life was now on hold.
Doctor appointments, chemotherapy, X-rays, CAT scans, and emergency room appointments filled our daily schedules. My wife and I went from being “the kids” to becoming the “caretakers”. Helping my parents with cooking, cleaning, and trying to find alternative treatments to beat the cancer took a tremendous toll.
After 13 months of chemotherapy, my Mom was told she was terminal. She stopped chemo and began hospice care. I was still in substantial pain from my back injury and couldn’t physically take care of her as she needed 24 hour care. We hired a caregiver to feed, bathe, help her to the bathroom, manage her medications, and keep her comfortable.
It was at this point we found out what Long Term Care and Long Term Care Insurance were all about. We wished we had long term care insurance for my mom, because in the final 3 months of her life, the 24/7 care costs $50,000. The whole experience was emotionally and financially draining.
After my mom passed away, I had back surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was a total failure and caused more pain and disability. It took 6 years of alternative medicine to help with some of the chronic pain but not enough to resume my dental career.
While I was still recovering and in physical therapy, my dad, who lived independently, developed dementia which affected his logic and decision-making abilities. He began self-medicating and not following his doctor’s orders which led to many emergency room visits. It became apparent that he could no longer safely live on his own.
We moved Dad to an assisted living facility where he lived, ate, and socialized with other seniors. His costs per month were steady at approximately $4,000 per month for the early years, but after a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis his dementia accelerated.
He needed much more care, and was transferred to the Memory Care unit of his facility. His monthly costs ballooned to over $11,000 per month for a small semi-private room and required help for eating, dressing, and using the bathroom.
Luckily for my Dad, we purchased a long-term care insurance policy for him after experiencing Mom's long-term care expenses. We knew we could not afford to cover Dad’s care if he had a prolonged illness.
Dad was in an assisted living facility for about 8 years before he passed away, and received Long Term Care benefits that helped us pay the nearly $750,000 it cost for his care.
There was no way that we would have been able to afford to pay for Dad’s care as we were also raising our two kids that were under the age of 5 at the time.
I joined California Life and Disability, Inc. in 2016 because my personal experiences with disability and long term care taught me how planning ahead for ill health and income protection while working and in retirement alleviates the future financial and emotional stress on yourself or your family.
My goal is to pay it forward so no one will have to go through our family's challenges.
Thank you for allowing me to share my family's story.