If it wasn’t for an unlikely hero in Richmond, a New York man may not have survived his trip to Europe.

Steven Lapidus said didn’t think much of it at the time, but checking off one important box when he booked his trip likely saved his life.

“I was at the point where I couldn’t move my legs. I could only move my arm about this high,” Lapidus said describing his condition after he suddenly fell ill on a solo trip to Italy.

His wife, Cathy, flew over to be with him.

“He was in a coma for a few days. And they said that he had sepsis and pneumonia,” she explained.

Steven was given a 50/50 chance of living. Yet, after receiving medical care for six-and-a-half weeks in Italy, he had made enough progress that doctors cleared him to fly home. And that was the next challenge.

He couldn’t walk. He needed special care and a specially-modified plane. “What they do is, in the middle of the plane, they take out four seats by four rows,” Lapidus explained.

The estimated cost to get him home was in the thousands of dollars. Luckily, before Steven left for Italy, he had purchased a $79 travel insurance policy through Richmond-based company Allianz. He says was worth every penny.

“It was covered at 100% and was about $70,000,” explained LaShanta Sullivan, Allianz’s Manager of Assistance.

Thanks to Allianz and the smarts to sign up for the travel insurance, Steven was transported home in a medical pod. The airline Lufthansa built a pod of its commercial flights.

“It was a long flight,” Lapidus said. “I left at 11 am and got in at midnight. From being married and having my two kids, the best day I ever had was getting home. I wanted to be home.”

Today, Lapidus recovering at a rehab center in New York. He’s learning to walk again and his health is improving.

“After a couple of weeks, I started with a cane,” he said.

Lapidus says the insurance was the best $79 he ever spent. Without that travel insurance policy, he believes he would still be stuck in Italy.