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How life insurance helped Karen regain her independence

Published May 2019

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Karen wanted to protect her son if anything were to happen to her. And then something did. By Jacqueline Garcia.


Perth teacher and single mother Karen had her life change in an instant after a horse riding accident in 2016.

As an avid equestrian with 40 years’ experience training show horses, Karen never expected to be injured while gently trotting with her placid horse, Spatchy. In a freak accident the horse stumbled after his foot sank into a soft patch of ground, flipping Karen over his shoulder and causing her to land flat on her back.

Karen initially thought she was just winded, until she realised she was unable to turn over or stand up. The extent of her injury only started to sink in when paramedics called for a rescue helicopter to fly her to Royal Perth Hospital.

A lengthy recovery

Hospital scans revealed Karen had crushed her T4 vertebrae, paralysing her from the shoulder blades down. Despite the prognosis, Karen remained optimistic about getting back to normal life and was grateful it wasn’t more serious.

“I’m very lucky,” she said. “In the intensive-care unit I thought I was pretty much the luckiest one in there because I could still speak, I still had my brain, and I had my arms.”

The seriousness of Karen’s injury meant she was in hospital for five months and unable to work for a total of six. Having taught at the same school for over 20 years, she was able to draw on leave benefits to help support her during her time off work, however she knew some larger expenses were coming.

Regaining independence

After months in hospital for recovery and rehabilitation, Karen was determined to get back to life as a teacher and a mother to then nine-year-old James. This required significant and costly adjustments to her home and car that would enable her to cope.

Prior to her accident Karen had applied for ANZ Life Insurance online, opting to add on critical illness insurance (also known as trauma insurance) to provide her with extra protection. 

Karen admits that in the past she’d never paid too much attention to insurance, but becoming a single parent made her think about it more seriously as she worried about providing for James if anything were to happen to her. “When I became a single mother, it just became more of a focus for me,” she said. “And to be honest, you never know what’s going to happen until it happens. Because I was perfectly happy and healthy one day and the next minute I wasn’t, so you just never know.”

“[After the accident] I just remember lying in bed and thinking how glad I was that I had insurance,” said Karen. “Because apart from just everyday living, I had to make modifications to the house, I had to buy a new car with modifications fitted to it and the insurance helped me do all that. And I still have some put away for a rainy day because I don’t actually know how long I’ll be able to keep working if my condition deteriorates.”

Despite the setbacks she’s faced, Karen is optimistic about her future and chooses not to focus on her limitations. She is determined not to be reliant on James and says “he does help me now and then, but I don’t ask him unless I have to because I’m his mother and he’s not my carer”.

These days Karen is back to teaching kindergarten, being a devoted mum to James, and playing an active role in the equestrian community as a member of multiple Arabian horse committees, judging horses, helping out at shows and occasionally instructing riders.

Protect the people you live for

We all like to think that bad things won't happen to us, but every day, lives are disrupted by critical illness, accidents, or worse. Insurance can’t stop the unexpected from happening, however it can help you financially protect the people you live for.

Find out about the different types of life insurance or get a life insurance quote online today.

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This information is current as at date of publication and is subject to change.

ANZ Life Insurance is issued by OnePath Life Limited (OnePath Life) (ABN 33 009 657 176, AFSL 238 341). We recommend that you read the ANZ Financial Services Guide (PDF 479kB)ANZ Life Insurance Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Document (PDF 145kB) (available online or by calling 13 16 14) before deciding whether to acquire, or to continue to hold, this product. This PDS relates to policies issued from 1 June 2019. Previous products (with the same name) may have different features and benefits. If you hold insurance based on an earlier PDS, please contact us if you have any questions or to have a PDS sent to you.

The issuer of this information is ANZ. While ANZ has taken care to ensure that this information is from reliable sources, it cannot warrant its accuracy, completeness or suitability for your intended use. To the extent permitted by law, ANZ does not accept any responsibility or liability arising from your use of this information.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) ABN 11 005 357 522 AFSL 234527 is an authorised deposit taking institution (Bank) under the Banking Act 1959 (Cth). The issuers of these products are not Banks. Although ANZ distributes these products, these products are not a deposit or other liability of ANZ or its related group companies. None of them stands behind or guarantees the issuers or the products. 

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