It’s a miracle he survived after his patrol car was rear ended by a taxi traveling 100mph. Jason’s car burst into flames trapping him inside. The incredible teams at Maricopa Integrated Health System and Arizona Burn Center saved his life.
Today, Jason is a Keynote Speaker inspiring people across the country to ‘keep going’ and he is the author of BURNING SHIELD.
“LIFE IS 10% WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU AND 90% HOW YOU REACT TO IT”.
A proud father, his youngest son just graduated 8th grade. Jason said by all accounts his son should not even be here but goes on to say, “We both have a deeper appreciation for his life. I am excited to see him go on to his next journey. He loves life, he’s got a bright future.”
Both Jason and his son were gifted life. They are both miracles.
Recently at the Night of Hero’s Event, Maricopa Health Foundation honored Jason. The event opened with a dramatic video.
On March 26th, 2001, Jason’s squad car was rear ended by a taxi and engulfed in flames. His life changed forever.
Dr. Daniel Caruso, MD Chairman MIHS, said Jason should have died at the scene. “People do not survive when their entire head and upper body is engulfed in flame and smoke. It is physiologically impossible”.
Jason Schechterle not only survived, he is a hero and an inspiration.
When asked if watching this video was hard, Jason says, “It’s not difficult… I am enthralled, and humbled and so appreciative of what the people on that scene did that night. They are the heroes”.
When Jason listens to what the firefighters and police officers did that night, and the opportunities they gave him to live, he feels they are the true heroes. He understands that being a First Responder is a true calling.
For Jason to be here today, 16 years later, is a miracle. He came through something that no one else has survived.
But, on March 26th, 2001, the twist of fate was on his side.
A firetruck was sitting at that intersection. Great medical teams were put in place and they acted quickly.
Dr Daniel Caruso, a kind and caring burn doctor, raced to the hospital and was in shock when he saw Jason. The doctor once told Jason that he wondered if he was doing him a favor trying to save him.
Jason does not have memories of that night, but he loves the stories and the human side of it. He suffered 4th degree burns. Burns that go through the muscle, through the fat, all the way to the bone. Jason was not just surrounded by fire in the accident, he was on fire. He lost his entire physical identity.
“Dying would have been easy. This path (survival) was not easy”.
Instead, he was left with a long and painful road. He has had more than 52 surgeries. He never once wished he was dead, but having no memory from that night he says,” passing away would have been very simple”. What he was facing was fear and pain for a lot of years.
Jason always chose life.
He fought hard, both physically and mentally, to have a great life for his family, and to continue to reach out and help others.
“Now that I understand the full power of the human spirit. There is nothing you can’t overcome with a positive attitude. The sun rises. Life goes on, and you can either be part of it or not. It is that simple.”
Jason explains that when he hears people saying life sucks, he thinks to himself there is nothing like life. “You can’t give up on anything, and the sun is coming up tomorrow if you want it to or not. You have to be capable to see things that are bigger than yourself”. He believes that you have to find what moves you, what inspires you.
Coming out of the hospital, Jason was prescribed a low dose antidepressant, but he realized with his huge support system, he couldn’t fail. So, he only took the drugs for a very short time. He wanted to feel what he was going to feel and get through it. He did not want to take a chance of becoming dependent or addicted to something that would set him back. He embraced his feelings in order to get to the other side.
The future came about when he and his wife found out that they were pregnant with their third child. Jason wanted to be stronger for his children. He had a responsibility to be the best dad he could be to his three children.
Looking back, the toughest parts are really the best parts.
His daughter was just 7, and his son at age 3, had a hard time dealing with what happened to their dad. His son would cry and run out of room saying,” you are not my dad”. This lasted for months. But now, at 18, his oldest son has grown into a “most beautiful soul ever put on this earth”.
To tell his story, Jason decided to write a book, BURNING SHIELD, a legacy for his children. He wanted his story told accurately.
Now a Keynote Speaker, Jason travels around the country as he continues to be inspired by telling his story to others. He continues to inspire and help others with whatever they are going through. He says that people always want to compare their adversities. Jason goes on to say you can’t.
“Your adversity is your own, and it is a very big deal, no matter what it is. You cannot compare adversities”.
Many people want to share their stories with him as well.
In 2010, following a speech to about 700 people, a NYC firefighter came up and told him that he had been through 9/11. And he was currently going through a divorce. He wanted to let Jason know that his story changed his life. His comment was powerful.
Jason was humbled. If he can just touch one person by telling his story, it is worth it.
His story is not about being burned or being a cop, it is about adversity, it is about life. He speaks to all age groups, all genres.
Jason recognizes the courage it takes for people to walk up to him. He finds it heartwarming.
Sometimes the looks that people give him can bother him and then sometimes not. Of course, he is “human”. He says he has good days and bad days like anyone.
About 18 months ago, he started traveling alone. His eyesight makes it difficult, but in true Jason style, he does not want to travel with friends as a crutch.
In a picture from his book, Jason is photographed alone on the golf course. This best represents his comeback. He had to overcome his adversity by himself. Even his wife acknowledges she couldn’t do it for him, he had to do it by himself. This picture represents the serenity he feels.
The one thing Jason wants everyone to take away from his story is “don’t let the pain of today blind you from the promise of tomorrow. Your human spirit can shine so bright. Your attitude is everything. Just don’t give up.”
Jason Schechterle, and everyone touched by his story, his inspiration, is forever in debt to those heroes that saved his life.