Read Phil’s Story About How His Life Suddenly Changed After A Heart Attack at Just 42

The world has changed. We’re living longer and have easy access to increasingly advanced medical care. The illnesses that used to be critical – for example, heart attack, stroke and cancer – no longer are. In fact, cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. So although we can live longer and spend more quality time with our family, it also means we’re all now facing a greater number of serious conditions in our lifetime. While they might not be terminal, they can still have a huge impact on our quality of life and finances.

But the number of people with critical illness or serious illness cover still pales in comparison with those who have traditional life insurance. In today’s world, taking out a Serious Illness Cover policy should be an important consideration – just like it was for Phil, whose life changed forever in a split-second.

Read on to see how VitalityLife was there for him in the bad times as well as the good…

“I would’ve put myself down as the last person to have a heart attack. I keep fit, I eat right, I’m always active. So I didn’t really believe it was happening at first.”

Phil Bullen, 42, lived an active life until one day – totally out of the blue – he had a heart attack.

Did you know?

Every seven minutes someone in the UK has a heart attack.


Where it all began

“I’m a financial adviser and a homeowner. When my mortgage was up for renewal, my Mortgage Adviser discussed the benefits of Vitality and it soon became clear that Vitality had the best offer for me and my family.  The biggest attraction for me was the range of healthy living benefits. As a family we started walking more than ever thanks to my activity tracking device – it became a bit of a competition to make sure we all hit our weekly step target. We do lots of other activities together too; we go snowboarding once a year, cycling regularly, and my daughter Madison’s learning to do a bit of off-road motorcycling at the moment. I was impressed by the depth of coverage Vitality’s Serious Illness Cover provides. Knowing that my family will be taken care of should anything happen to me is really important.”

The day that changed my life

“We’d just gotten back from a snowboarding holiday and life was good. I went into work one morning but felt a funny pain in my chest. At first, I didn’t think it was serious, so just ignored it. But it wouldn’t go away. Then I start feeling very cold, clammy, sweaty, and the pain spread to my left arm. I called 999 and told them I was having chest pains. It all felt very distant – like someone else was being told they were having a heart attack. It was only when they put me in the ambulance that reality kicked in and it dawned on me what was happening.”

“I couldn’t stop thinking that this could be the end. Not just thinking of myself, but thinking of Madison. She’s too young to lose her dad.”

Colette, Phil’s partner

“I had three blocked arteries, so it was quite a serious heart attack. I don’t remember much; just feeling afraid, and knowing that I wasn’t ready to leave my family. In the end I needed nine stents, which is quite a lot.”

Not a typical insurer

After I left hospital, I wanted to get my claim sorted out as soon as possible. It was all going quite smoothly until a couple of days later when I got a call from Vitality. They started asking me questions about how severe the heart attack was, what my ejection fraction was, and so on. I got worried because I thought they were trying to find a way out of paying me. My head started to spin because I didn’t feel strong enough to go back to work straight away. I didn’t know what I would do. But thankfully it turned out that they were actually trying to see if I was entitled to more! I was so relieved! I ended up getting 50% of my plan paid out – not just the 25% I thought I was due. There aren’t many insurers who’ll actively look to pay you more.”

Getting to know the new me

Obviously the first few months afterwards, every time I got an ache in my chest I was thinking: is it happening again? The mental recovery is just as hard as the physical one.

“It just goes to show that it can happen to anyone with no warning.”


It’s made me stop and think. You suddenly realise what’s important in life when something like this happens, so now we consciously spend more time together as a family. You can get too caught up worrying about the small stuff.  And the payout from Vitality has given me the peace of mind I needed to just get back on my feet. They really went the extra mile. And the fact that I still have 50% of my cover in place is really reassuring for my whole family, in case something else happens in the future.

“If anything, we do more activities together now because he always wants to get the whole family out the house to keep fit.”

Madison, Phil’s daughter

I’m still an adviser, but now I’m my own case study. I can explain how the cover and healthy-living rewards work in much more depth. And I can use proper facts too, because it all really happened to me.”

The Vitality difference:

  1. Make the most out of today. VitalityLife’s partners encourage you to get fit and active, and reward you for being healthy. And the healthier you are, the more benefits and discounts you can enjoy.
  2. There when you need them. Our comprehensive Serious Illness Cover covers 174 conditions in total – including 79 unique conditions, all heart attacks and more cancers than anyone else.
  3. Protect tomorrow. Our Serious Illness Cover allows members to claim several times from the same policy, as it pays out based on the severity of the illness. Members can claim for an illness progression or a completely unrelated condition, and still remain covered.

Find out more about Serious Illness Cover

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