Benny Booysen only has 30% use of his hands after being shot four times during a robbery. He details how this event changed his life, and how having the right insurance policies secured his financial wellbeing.
At first glance, you might not notice Benny Booysen’s disability. “When we go shopping, people stare because my wife has to carry all our bags, and I know what they’re thinking: ‘Why is this guy letting his wife do all the heavy lifting?’” he explains.
After being shot four times during a house robbery at his home on Rietvlei Zoo Farm, south of Johannesburg, Benny only has 30% use of his hands.
While this has severely affected his life, the 49-year-old remains upbeat. “People can now call me Benny ‘Bulletproof’ Booysen,” he jokes.
WHEN HIS LIFE CHANGED
On the night of 2 October 2018, Benny was home with his son, Matthew (17), and his son’s friend, Keagan Perry. His wife, Samantha (48), and their two other children, son Jordan (20) and daughter Shaye (14), were staying in Pretoria because Jordan was competing in a trampoline competition.
“I was watching soccer on TV. It was a beautiful night, but I kept hearing our dog bark, which was unusual. Then Matthew ran into the room and said that there were four strange men in the garden.”
While Matthew and Keagan went to hide, Benny managed to close the glass sliding door before the men reached it. He was about to close the security gate when they shot him through the door – twice in the left arm. They kicked the sliding door off its rails and shot him twice in the right arm.
He was still standing but couldn’t move his arms. “Matthew then ran into the room. They shot at him as well, but missed, and that’s when he begged them not to shoot me again. Somehow, he calmed them down,” Benny recounts.
Keagan had managed to flee through the garage. Benny and Matthew were told to wait in the bathroom while the robbers ransacked the house. After the robbers left, Benny and Matthew walked to the farm’s gate, which was about 300m away.
Shadrack Thafeni, a Rietvlei driver, took them to Netcare Mulbarton Hospital. Benny was later transferred to Netcare Union Hospital in Alberton. He was in the hospital for three weeks and underwent three operations. He realised that his hands weren’t working when he woke up from the first operation.
“I had to use my toes to press the nurse-call button,” he recalls.
His doctors informed him that the gunshot wounds had severely damaged his brachial plexus, a network of nerves, which caused the loss of feeling and movement in his hands. Six weeks after being discharged, he underwent a nerve-transplant operation in his left arm. “Of the two, my left hand is the worst.”
He also went to rehab once a week for several months. “The therapist explained that what is most important is the ability to bend and close one’s hands. My grip has improved hundredfold, but I still can’t straighten my fingers, and my small motor skills are gone.”
This meant he couldn’t do various everyday tasks that people take for granted – tying his own shoelaces, cutting his food, writing, using zips, driving, using a tablet and even carrying shopping bags. This forced Benny to close his construction business and resign as the assistant manager at the Rietvlei Zoo Farm picnic venue.
Despite these setbacks, Benny believes he’s more fortunate than most because he had the help and support of his family and friends. And two years before the robbery, he had taken out Old Mutual Disability Income Cover, Severe Illness and Lump Sum Disability insurance, as well as a premium waiver on his retirement annuity (RA).
“My wife hates insurance brokers. She says they’re bad luck and after they sell you the policy, you never see them again. And we both felt that the policy was too expensive, so we were reluctant at first.”
However, after Benny’s insurance broker and friend, Kobie van Eeden, structured their policy to fit their budget, they signed. Benny initially thought that the claiming process would be laborious, but before long he and Samantha were invited for drinks with Kobie and his wife, Karen.
“That’s when they told me that Old Mutual would be paying the full cover amount in one payment. I almost started crying when I heard how much the payment was for . . . In fact, I think I did cry a little.”
Benny’s Severe Illness cover also covered activities of daily living, many of which Benny could no longer do, and it paid him an additional lump sum.
And for the rest of his life, his Disability Income Protection cover will pay him a monthly income, which increases each year with inflation, and Old Mutual will waive the premiums on his RA, which means Benny no longer needs to pay premiums but his retirement savings will become available when he reaches retirement age.
“Because of these policies, I won’t have to worry about finances for the rest of my life. If I didn’t have them, the financial implications would have been huge, and would have greatly affected our family. We would have had to sell our properties and my wife would have had to get a second job.”
ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
“I’m a daddy day-care and house executive now,” Benny jokes when asked if he has started working again. “My hands have improved, and I’ve learnt to adapt. I write now, and I use tools or assistive devices. I have one that helps me hold a fork, I drive an automatic vehicle and my steering wheel has been fitted with a steering knob.
"I use a pizza cutter to cut my food, but if it’s a thick piece of meat, my wife will have to cut it for me; and my daughter still helps tie my shoelaces. I love playing golf and have even taught myself to play one handed.”
And while he admits that he sometimes gets bored being home, he feels blessed that he doesn’t have to worry about the financial wellbeing of his family.
“The funny thing about these policies is that you don’t want to take them out because you think they’re too expensive, and you don’t think bad things can happen to you. Young people especially feel this way. But I’m proof. Bad things do happen, and they can happen to anyone. Having the right policies in place made all the difference in my case.
“It won’t happen to me” is a refrain many people believe, but the truth is we simply can’t control all the risks. Our genes, the nature of our jobs and unforeseeable events all come into play.
According to a survey, 1 in 4 people will become disabled during their working career, whether due to physical injury or illness. Therefore disability cover is vital.
It reduces financial anxiety when you can’t earn and removes the stress of not knowing how you’ll provide for your family.
Old Mutual offers its customers the flexibility to build disability insurance that suits their unique needs. Old Mutual’s Personal Cover offering includes Disability insurance.
Depending on which product you choose, Old Mutual will pay out a single tax-free amount or a monthly tax-free payment, if you are impaired, unable to work or take care of yourself due to an illness or injury. With the help of your adviser, you can structure your cover to suit your needs and only pay for what you need.
Depending on the cover amount you have a choice of underwriting options – your premium could be cheaper if you go for medical tests and you’re healthy. And you can get rewarded for being physically and financially fit through the Old Mutual Rewards programme.
To get Old Mutual Disability insurance today, speak to a financial adviser,
call 0860 60 60 60 or visit Old Mutual.
This testimonial does not constitute financial advice
Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (SA) Limited is a licensed FSP and Life Insurer.