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Russell Karten, MD, MBA, FACEP

Insurance Advisor

On the morning of February 5th, 2014, I agreed to help a close friend clear his driveway after a particularly intense storm. I’d done many a favor like this one in the past and thought nothing of it as I suited up to brave the cold. I was just glad to have the day off from the emergency department so that I could help.

When I got there, branches were everywhere. As we stood together assessing the damage, I found myself in the wrong place, at the wrong time: without any warning, a branch above me, which was burdened heavily with ice, cracked off and crashed down. And when it did, it crashed down onto me.

I went from that driveway to the trauma bay, ending up in the very same hospital where I had first begun my career more than a decade earlier. I have no memory of waking up there, or the nine days following the accident. I learned later that I had suffered a traumatic brain injury, several spinal fractures, and extensive facial fractures which resulted in permanent visual deficits. I spent almost four weeks hospitalized and in rehab, ultimately being cared for by the same medical system in which I had provided care to thousands of patients during my almost ten years in the emergency department.

In the first few months after the accident, there were many questions to which the answers were unknown: would my vision ever be completely restored? Would I be able to continue the career I had worked so hard to achieve, which had provided me with so much meaning? I didn’t know. No one did. I saw a cadre of experts, all with varying prognoses. No one knew how things would turn out, and it was unclear if I could work in an emergency department again.

To make a long story short, I have been extraordinarily lucky. I made an incredible recovery, and for that, I’m so grateful. However, it ultimately became apparent that I would never again be able to work in the chaotic environment of an emergency department. I loved medicine. I had never really done anything else. I had no idea what came next.

I went back to what I knew best, this time working on the administrative side of things as the medical director for a growing urgent care chain. But it wasn’t long before I began to crave what I’d loved most about the emergency department: I wanted opportunities to help people directly—to take care of them, even if I could no longer do it as their physician.

By a fluke of chance, my wife met another physician in the area who had suffered an injury and who now worked in disability insurance. I reflected on how valuable my own disability insurance had been. When I got my first policy as a twenty-eight-year-old resident, it had been impossible to imagine why I would ever need disability insurance. After all, I ate right, exercised often, and lived what I considered a healthy lifestyle. But my disability insurance ended up being a savior, allowing me to focus on recovery, and allowing my family to not have to stress about important financial decisions such as whether we’d be able to afford our mortgage and have to move.

When Stephanie and I met for a coffee and she recounted how hard it had been for her to get the benefit to which she was actually entitled, I realized that not everyone is as lucky as I was to have a good policy in place (or any policy at all). Not everyone thinks about disability insurance, and among those who do, it’s easy to miss the gaps in coverage that can mean the difference between keeping your house or not. I decided immediately that I’d do whatever I could to ensure my peers were protected. I took my insurance certification exam and joined PearsonRavitz in early 2018, and I haven’t looked back. I look forward to helping you get protected from life’s unexpected detours.

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