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Restoring perspective in difficult times


Spend some time with Brett Schatto and you’re likely to come away with a good dose of perspective.

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Add to that, you’ll get a real sense of what it means to be resilient and a reminder of the importance of planning for the inevitable.

As Brett reveals, his life has been a rollercoaster –  full of ups and with more than its fair share of downs. Yet despite the traumas and difficulties he has been forced to face head-on, he finds solace in knowing that “it could always be worse”.

As a former front line police officer, Brett delivered ‘death messages’ to families who had lost someone in an accident or tragic circumstances. However, it wasn’t until his 9-year-old son Jordan was killed after being hit by a car that he completely understood the deep loss experienced after losing a loved one.

If that wasn’t enough, he also faced his own mortality after being king hit while trying to break up a fight. Months later he had his first grand mal seizure and was told he had a brain tumour. Fortunately, subsequent tests found it was brain scarring causing the episodes but he still remains on daily medication to control epilepsy.

A few years ago Brett’s business partner and friend Katie died from breast cancer at the age of 32 and he also saw his father succumb to prostate cancer.

When his youngest son Connor was 13 he was rushed to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery, the family was told a couple of times he may not survive. Eventually he will need a liver transplant.

It is through these devastating life experiences that Brett has developed a heightened empathy around suffering and is not afraid to talk about dying. Now working as the CEO of a financial advisory firm in Adelaide, the 52 year old is providing a friendly ear and helping those with a terminal illness ‘to get their affairs in order’.

Through his association with Adelaide Oncology & Haematology’s office located at Kimberly House, Calvary North Adelaide Hospital, Brett provides financial and estate advice at workshops held as part of the RESTORE cancer wellness program. He also meets individually with about 40 patients who are referred to him each year, often going later to visit them – not so much to discuss finances which by then have been sorted, but to have a quick chat as a friend.

“I feel like I can empathise with people because I’ve been there and done that,” he told The Southern Cross.

“I’ve seen my own death through thinking I had a brain tumour, I’ve experienced the loss of a child, I’ve experienced the death of someone close to me in business circles, I’ve lost my father…so when people come to me and say you don’t understand Brett, I say try me!”

Having been an executor of his father’s will, Brett said he understands what it’s like to search for missing documents, reconstruct assets, liabilities, pay outstanding bills and complete unfinished jobs for those who have died.

So when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness he wants to assist them get their finances in place for those who will be left behind. Always a straight talker, Brett also draws on some of his personal challenges to help put their situation into perspective.

The proud dad to Lachlan, 22, Connor, 20, and partner to Vilma, Brett said while he has learned to get on with life in the 21 years ago since Jordan was killed, his oldest son is never far from his mind.

“You don’t recover from those things; it just becomes part of who you are and how you see life,” he reflected.

“When it happened I lived one hour at a time. I became a hermit. I still think about him 20 times a day.

“It takes a long time to get some perspective…and it does bring that perspective to everything else that happens after that.

“For me, life has to be about resilience and living in spite of what life throws at you.”

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