Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 145 | May 25, 2021
Burning Shield - The Story Of Jason Schechterle
Keynote Presenter & Motivational Speaker
Hello and welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Doing this podcast is one of the best decisions that I ever made because every week I get to interview some of the most incredible people in the world, leaders in healthcare and in business who have taught me so much. Every week I feel inspired and it has given me a new appreciation for the good in people and the unbreakable human spirit. The man you will meet today is going to inspire you more than ever! I met retired Phoenix police officer, Jason Schechterle, when we were both presenters recently at a TEDx Talk. When you meet Jason, you can’t help but be impressed and inspired. Jason’s journey chronicles his fight for life, his triumph over tragedy, and the inspiration that enables him to continue to overcome unimaginable adversity. His personal narrative exemplifies that the power of the human spirit can never be underestimated or extinguished. Jason is the subject of the book, Burning Shield:, which we’ll talk about today, as Jason tells us his story of why he’s the luckiest person alive.
Jason tells us the incredible story of his journey to becoming a police officer and the day that changed his life forever. We learn how he suffered burns to 43% of his body, with his neck, head and face being the worst, spent two and a half months in a coma, and was not expected to survive. Jason tells us about the doctor that he called, “One of the greatest healers and lifesavers this world has ever known,” and how this doctor questioned his own reasoning behind doing the surgery. Jason had fifty-six surgeries in seven years, and he shares experiences he had with some of the doctors and nurses in the burn center, being vulnerable, and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who are willing to help. Amazingly, not only does Jason survive, but he ends up going back to work as a homicide detective and playing golf. He explains how in his recovery process, it was so important to tell other people that there’s nothing as powerful as a made-up mind. Throughout this process, Jason’s wife was so dedicated and the love they have for each other really showed, but there was another person in his life that really represented the friendship and camaraderie between two police officers. Learn about Brian and what he did for his family. Jason ends up sharing his story of how he worked hard to fight agains Ford Motor Company to discontinue a defective and dangerous car thereby helping and probably saving the lives of other police officers We end with Jason telling us the toughest conversations he’s had, which he credits his wife, and he shares inspirational advice with us that you really have to hear! If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit follow, and download all the previous episodes to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication.
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Jason Schechterle (2s):
Again, it’s silly and simple to talk about golf when you’re comparing it to fourth degree burns, but it was my recovery process is so important to tell other people that there’s nothing as powerful as a made up mind. And it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you’re doing it for somebody else, like as a doctor to help somebody or a cop who’s trying to help somebody or personally, when you’re alone with your thoughts. Which everybody should know, it’s the most dangerous place you’re ever going to be. And you’re there all the time. You’re stuck with your thoughts all the time. That was a big part of me knowing that I was okay, was to get back to just the normalcy and to be good again at something I used to be good at.
Jason Schechterle (48s):
It’s like I played golf before, I play golf now, nothing is different.
Welcome to difficult conversations lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini is a practicing physician and President and CEO of The Orsini Way. As a frequent keynote speaker and author, Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders how to navigate through the most difficult dialogues. Each week, you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better this is the podcast for you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 37s):
Welcome to another episode of Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, and you guessed it, I’ll be your host again this week. Well, as I approach my 50th episode, I can say that doing this podcast is one of the best decisions that I ever made. Because each and every week, I get to interview some of the most incredible people in the world, leaders in healthcare, and in business who have taught me so much. I also feel inspired every week. And this podcast has given me a new appreciation for the good in people and the unbreakable human spirit. Well, none of my amazing guests have been more inspiring than the man you were about to meet today.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 22s):
I had the pleasure of meeting retired, Phoenix police, officer Jason Schechterle when we were both presenters at TEDx Grand Canyon University back in March. When you meet Jason, he can’t help, but be impressed, inspired and frankly, just like the guy. We hit it off. And I’m so proud, not only to have him on this podcast, but to consider him a friend. Jason’s journey, chronicles his fight for life, his triumph over tragedy, and the inspiration that enables him to continue to overcome unimaginable adversity. His personal narrative exemplifies that the power of the human spirit can never be underestimated or extinguished.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 3s):
His story is also a testament of true love and the dedication Jason and his wife, have in their commitment to honor their family and the vows of marriage in good times and bad. His story is one of life rebirth and transformation. Jason represents the human experience at its very best and is sent from despair to describing himself as the luckiest person alive. Jason is the subject of the book, “Burning Shield” by Landon Napoleon, which we’ll talk about today. If you haven’t read it, go to Amazon right now and buy it. Well, this is what I normally would tell Jason’s story, but I’m going to let him tell Jason, all I can say right now is I’m so excited to speak to you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 43s):
It’s been great getting to know you and I can’t wait for my audience to get to know you as well. Welcome Jason.
Jason Schechterle (3m 50s):
Thank you o very much back Dr. Orsini, Doc, Tony. Yeah, we got
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 55s):
Just Tony, unless you’re my mother and I’m Anthony.
Jason Schechterle (4m 3s):
I love being on your show. I really appreciate the invitation. And it’s nice to be so much more relaxed than the last time when we were spending about 11 hours getting ready for that TEDx talk.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 15s):
Well, you and I speak a lot in public, but I can say, I think we share that was a pretty stressful moment. It’s very different to do the TEDx talks.
Jason Schechterle (4m 26s):
Yeah, It’s an intense day. And because we are experienced speakers, probably couldn’t be considered professional speakers. You have all this bill. I compared it to like all this buildup in the stress and anxiety. And then after 12 minutes it was over. I’m like, well, that was it. So it ended up being a wonderful new friendships came off without a hitch. And I don’t know, you know, if you felt the same way, but it was the first time I’ve been in front of an audience in 13 months. And that just felt amazing to feel the energy in the room and to hear the laughter and the, and the gasps and everything for each thing that we all talked about.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (5m 12s):
Yeah. That it’s nice to be back in front of a crowd. I’ve given so many presentations by a zoom and you know, I gave one University of Virginia a few months back and you don’t even know if anyone’s there until you finish speaking. Hello. Is anybody out there?
Jason Schechterle (5m 31s):
Staring at yourself in the little box that corner? I love zoom. It does connect us.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (5m 39s):
But, and the last thing I’ll say about the TEDx, I told my wife that you came a little bit later. Cause I think he couldn’t make it to the first night, but in 24 hours, we made incredible friends because I feel like we’re all in this boat together and we’re pulling for each other. And it’s amazing that I’ve only been around you for 12 hours that we’ve spoken for awhile. But I feel like you’re my friend. It’s amazing how that happened.
Jason Schechterle (6m 3s):
That’s one of, probably the best part about it. We’re all from different backgrounds, different parts of the country, speaking on different topics. And there was just an instant bond I felt with several of us and it’s because I think the preparation for it, but then once you got there, it was just us, you know, in the ring and it was showtime. And I love that.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (6m 24s):
Well, by the time this goes live, which should probably be in about a few weeks, I’d say probably the end of may. Hopefully it’ll be up and everybody could watch your amazing speech and everyone else’s, but let’s move on because I didn’t really tell much of your story because I want you to tell it. And it’s an amazing story of tragedy and triumph. And I’m just going to give you the mic and just go ahead and tell us your incredible story.
Jason Schechterle (6m 51s):
I think you could tell by my background, beautiful sunny Phoenix, Arizona is where I am right now, where I’m born and raised. And I always do at a young age, I just, a life of service I wanted and had thoughts about being a police officer ended up being pretty good at golf, got a college scholarship out of high school and gave that a shot for not very long was about six months. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was definitely not on the level that some of these golfers are along with. I realized that at least for me, I was done being a student and ready to move on to that life of service. So I served four years in the air force, which was just an outstanding decision on my part structured discipline, but I wanted and needed came home.
Jason Schechterle (7m 42s):
And then again, life changed pretty quickly. I got married, had a couple of kids and ended up with a great job as an apprentice lineman. The guys that work on the overhead power lines, it’s just kind of cruising through life. You know, I not really faced a lot of adversity. My parents were healthy and happily married. All four of my grandparents were alive and married. Again, I’m just cruising through life, not really paying attention to a whole lot. And March 26 of 1999, I was 26 years old. I came home from work, turned out in the five o’clock news. The lead story was a beach police officer named Mark Atkinson had just been shot and killed in the line of duty.
Jason Schechterle (8m 28s):
And it was my moment of clarity. It was my aha moment that you know what you have to be wearing that uniform. You have to be doing that job. And it’s hard to even put into words when you feel a calling and a pull towards something. So I went right away filled out an application with the city of Phoenix was very lucky. It’s a very difficult job to get, especially back in 1999, a lot of people not like it is today with the way the world is, but back then it was a lot of people wanted it, man. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity. The academy, you know, I found it to be very easy, enjoyable, almost just to learn the tricks of the trade, to learn criminal law, defensive tactics, and then high risk vehicle stops and all of that stuff.
Jason Schechterle (9m 21s):
First graduating class of 2000, being a patrol officer, especially on the streets of the city that I grew up in the city that I love and care about. So rewarding. I always tell people, I still teach at our academy. And you know, if you have the foundation that you do this job with the right honor and the integrity to have a badge, I don’t care what noise is coming across your TV screen. It is the most rewarding career.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (9m 50s):
And I know what you’re speaking of. My whole family are cops. My father is a retired police officer. My brother’s retired, I got three uncles. And I remember as a teenager getting pulled over for a traffic violation, they’d say who’s a police officer. Cause you know, New Jersey had those PBA cards and they’d say who do you know that the police officer real intimidated was saying, who do you know is a police officer? And I’d say, well, let me see my father and my brother had three uncles, 2 cousins. And they’re like, all right, go ahead and go.
Jason Schechterle (10m 21s):
Cops specially in Jersey. And these cops are intimidating places. My dad is from Asbury park, New Jersey. It’s a little more intense. I don’t know if I could have done that part of the job.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (10m 38s):
Anyway. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.
Jason Schechterle (10m 41s):
So yeah, again, I’m cruising through life. I’ve got beautiful young growing family. I’ve got the job that I was meant to be doing and loved every day of it. And about 14 months in ironically on March 26, 2001, exactly two years to the day after Mark’s accident had been killed the reason I became a police officer. Went to work that day three in the afternoon. I was supposed to work until one o’clock in the morning and at 1130 that night, so I’ve gone through more than three fourths of my shift, very quiet, nothing going on. And I responded to an emergency call that was actually out of my patrol area.
Jason Schechterle (11m 22s):
I had no recent answer up to this fall except that the, also that at the time it was a serious call, a sounded like a violent crime, committed it as a dead body. And so I answered up for long ways to go being out of my patrol zone lights and siren on time to get there as quick as I can. And I’ve stopped at a red light. Again, it doesn’t matter what you see on TV. When you are running, what we call code three lights and siren and you have a red light and you still have to come to a stop so the people with the green light will yield to emergency vehicle. And no, it only takes a second and a half to clear an intersection.
Jason Schechterle (12m 2s):
And just as I was going to proceed, I was struck from behind by a taxi cab. The driver was suffering an epileptic seizure at the time. And according to the investigation, he was doing 115 miles an hour. When you run into me and, you know, looking back on it, I don’t know if he had traveled a long way building up to that incredible speed. And when you’re in the middle, you know, a lot more about this than I do, but being in the middle of a grand mal seizure, you are out of control of what’s going on. And you know, I can only assume that in those last few seconds, he was probably attracted to my overhead lights and he hit me right in the back and I never saw it.
Jason Schechterle (12m 50s):
I never felt the impact. You know, I’m very blessed for that. I was knocked unconscious, which had a lot to do with saving my life. My car burst into flames, traveled almost 300 feet through the intersection at that, you know, incredible speed of an impact, how I was propelled forward. And so many miracles, twists of fate timing. I came to rest about 50 feet from a firetruck, which is just unbelievable that there was a firetruck in the exact intersection at the exact moment that I needed the most. And they were given an opportunity to put their training and use their calling. It’s easy to sit here and state facts and state and timeline, but no, we are all human beings.
Jason Schechterle (13m 36s):
You’re an ICU doc. You know, sometimes it’s always nice for, for careers like this. When you get a little bit of detail, you get a little bit of, hey, here’s what’s coming in right now, or here’s the call you need to go to. And it’s a shoplifter, it’s a guy with a gun. It’s a burglary, you know, for a cop, you get a little bit of time to assess. And these firefighters, I think about them all the time, they were on their way to a call. And then all of a sudden, the world actually exploded right in front. And then for them to see it’s a police car, there is a heightened sense of, you know, the comradery and the care that goes into, you know, doctors, nurses policemen, fire teachers that, you know, no shame in any other career fields, that there is a connection with several of us.
Jason Schechterle (14m 22s):
And I think about them all the time that they were again, just human beings who have to put on a uniform at the beginning of that shift, but it doesn’t mean that they are the bravest and the strongest and the fight or flight syndrome is real. So I like to give them a lot of credit for what they did. They got me out of the car in 90 seconds, which is unheard of, I am two and a half miles away from what I would argue with anybody is the best burn center in the United States of America, Maricopa county hospital. The staff inside of this burn center is phenomenal. I think they’re the second busiest in the country, outside of Atlanta, but the talent and the training that is inside these walls is amazing.
Jason Schechterle (15m 6s):
And I was on their trauma table in less than eight minutes. And I know as a, as an ICU doc, you can appreciate that nobody gets that that kind of timing. I suffered burns to 43% of my body, my neck head, and face more. The worst, my torso was protected by my Bulletproof vest, thankfully, and again, being unconscious, I wasn’t yelling, screaming and taking in those deep breaths, inhaling the smoke and the flames would surely would have killed me within just a few minutes and having my chest spared from the burns, which firms for those of you listening, who don’t realize burns will keep on burning.
Jason Schechterle (15m 49s):
So it’s like somebody putting a brick on your chest. Eventually your lungs just can’t expand. You can’t breathe. So that helped me a lot. But sitting in the driver’s seat, it was from the neck up my shoulders, my hands ended up again, 40, and I’m not sure how you all come up with these measurements, but 43%. And outside of the burns, I had two cracked ribs and a mild concussion. I mean, I would have gone home just a few hours after the accident. Except for the car bursting into flames. I spent two and a half months in a coma. I mean, it should go without saying I was not expected to live. I had some of the best doctors in America and they told my family and very bluntly, Jason will not survive.
Jason Schechterle (16m 34s):
I was in a medically induced coma. They had to remove all of that dead bacteria fill tissue. And then I was say with, you know, obviously the loss of all those fluids and the protective covering that we are born so I was a tissue recipient. Yet I had dozens of tissue donors. And the gift of life is not just a cliche. It’s not just a few words it means something.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (16m 59s):
You know, reading the book, and I got to say to everybody out there, like you have to read the book. I knew Jason, I heard his Ted talk. I knew your story. We spoke a few times, but I didn’t know the detail of the book. I mean, so now you have severe level four burns and you know, all your entire face you’re in the best place that really you could be. And still when your wife comes to the hospital, the doctors pretty much tell her that you’re not going to survive. Correct?
Jason Schechterle (17m 32s):
Dr. Dan Caruso unfortunately passed away four years ago of cancer at the young age of 53. And he was just one of the greatest healers lifesavers the world has ever known. It was a terrible day to lose him. But he told my family, my parents, my wife very matter of factly, that Jason, I’ve never seen this to a head and face these kinds of burns nobody can survive this. For him to go to work and you know, what I love is it took I’m so into the human side of things, does that always matter? The level of education we have or what outfit we put on every day, we are human beings with emotions and our own story, our own set of adversity and families and things like that.
Jason Schechterle (18m 16s):
And it was probably a year and a half after the accident that I was back in the hospital for a surgery. He came in after a shift one day and pulled up a chair and he sat with me and he gave me a chance to hear his side what he saw, what he felt, why he did what he did from y’all. I wanted to understand why did you have to remove my entire appearance? My nose, my ears, my eyelids. Why am I blind? Which I was at the time. And he said to me that about halfway through the first surgery was seven hours of just removing everything to get down to something I in fourth degree is down the last layer of the muscle to the bone.
Jason Schechterle (18m 57s):
It is as deep as it can go. And he said that about halfway to the surgery, he put up his hands and he actually said out loud to everybody in the alarm, why are we But you are still a human being. doing this. What are we doing? Even if he lives? What’s the point? You know, a lot of people might question, well, you know, you’re a doctor, you took an oath. You, you supposed to have this code, you know, all these things that you’re going to save lives. It was so powerful to me to hear my doctor, the guy who saved my life, say to me that he questioned his own reasoning behind doing it.
Jason Schechterle (19m 38s):
And I’ve never forgotten that, that human intimacy into it. And I love it. I love it.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (19m 43s):
And that’s what we are fighting. That was my talk was about personalizing medicine. I can tell you as an ICU, doctor takes care of the little premature babies. I read the book when that quote comes along, we’re in the middle of the surgery. He says, what am I doing? It choked me up because as doctors, we do struggle with that. We want to heal everyone. As we say in medicine, I’ll do everything I can for you. I just don’t want to do everything I can to you. And we struggle with that. And I’ve struggled with that many times, am I doing something just because I can, or am I doing something to help? And so thankfully he kept going and in the book is incredible. And I think you said 50 surgeries.
Jason Schechterle (20m 24s):
I mean, I’ve had that 56. And to put that into perspective, I have not had one since 2008. I finally reached a point where I was, yeah, I was healthy. I was getting stronger. I was out of pain and all the elective surgeries, I just finally got tired of the little things, you know, the IVs. And then of course there were times I’d go in for what I thought was going to be a minor surgery. And it turned into a 10 day life-threatening staph infection. And I’m like, you know, Jay’ with all you have overcome all your families had to deal with. The rest of it gets solved. The 56 surgeries was really a short seven year timeframe. And I’m sure as I get older, I’m 48 years old right now.
Jason Schechterle (21m 6s):
I’m sure as I get older, I don’t know. What’s come. Nobody’s supposed to have survived. Fourth degree burns. So as I have issues with my eyesight or my breathing, things like that, I’m not going to shy away from taking care of things. But as far as making myself pretty, I’m good.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (21m 24s):
Let’s talk about, since the topic of this difficult conversations, I’m going to ask you something at the end, but you had to have some very difficult conversations with doctors along the way, giving bad news. And also, I’m sure you had to make some decisions about these elective surgeries. You talked about the human spirit and the doctors who really connected with you what did you notice about some doctors and nurses who were really that you were able to bond with and maybe some that just seem to be all business. And can you comment on that? The different types of approaches that they made.
Jason Schechterle (21m 57s):
Yeah, that’s something that I think is so important. Again, your Ted talk is about that side of it. Then I had to learn that the hard way, you know, because before this happened, I just assumed like everybody else who doesn’t know any better, the doctors will do what they’re supposed to take care of. You. I didn’t know about the human side and the emotional side and what you need. That’s sometimes more important than the physical and being injured in the line of duty. I was afforded the opportunities to go wherever I want and see whoever I want outside of obviously the initial emergency and going to, I was caught on, I was on fire.
Jason Schechterle (22m 39s):
So I needed to go to the burn center. But outside of that, I got to travel and I went all over the place. I mean, I was at Fairfax and go to the hospital in Virginia. I was in Boston, in New York city. I was trying to find their work and drop the surgeries. And I did. I, you know, I ran across doctors, nurses, even in the burn center. I know my wife was, she had, I had a couple of nurses that she went to my doctors and said, don’t ever let that nurse get back to Jason’s room. And, and it’s okay to be like that. I think we weren’t against everybody. We weren’t gets every piece of advice or every medical decision and procedure.
Jason Schechterle (23m 20s):
We were against people who did not seem to have what we needed as a family and what I needed personally. And that is just simply, Hey, it doesn’t matter my accident. It doesn’t matter the job that I was doing. It doesn’t matter what I look like right now. I am alive and drawing my own breath. And I, Jason and I need to be treated as such. I needed to be treated as Jason, as a father, as a person who has a reason and a chance to fight and overcome this. And I need some help. I am vulnerable right now. And vulnerability, I have found there’s an incredible amount of strength and beauty inside vulnerability, but you need a lot of help.
Jason Schechterle (24m 6s):
And that’s when you want to surround yourself with people who are willing to help. And, you know, it’s the same thing as you get to choose your friends. And if you have toxic friends, people who don’t have your best interests and supports you that it’s okay to let them go and keep your inner circle close. Well, it’s the same thing for me with the medical profession. I really tried to hone in on the people who had my best interest and we could, you know, we could laugh together. We could cry together it’s okay. Again, you can, even for doc, it’s okay to walk into my room and tell me that not only telling me the truth, but then also to tell me that you’re scared.
Jason Schechterle (24m 49s):
You’re not sure exactly what’s right. And let’s work on it together. And I was lucky over the years to find that in the medical tools are out there. I mean, just like cops and every profession that has a 10% or whatever, that aren’t that good. 90% of doctors, the nurses are out of this world and they want to take care of you. They want to help you. And I had to help them to right? I had to have a fighting spirit. I had to say, you know, I’m willing to try this. It wasn’t always no. Or you’re crazy, or that hurts too much. It was like, I believe that you do say that this’ll work. You want the ball, you know, in the fourth quarter on the last play, then that’s what I need.
Jason Schechterle (25m 32s):
And it was a beautiful thing to have that. And now friendships I’ve built now that I don’t need any medical procedures, I can be just friends with all these people, and it’s awesome. .
Dr. Anthony Orsini (25m 45s):
The X factor. And this is what I really dedicate the last 20 years. So the X factor in medicine is that the medicine’s not only about information, it’s about relation. And there’s a certain X-Factor of those nurses that and doctors that you bonded with. I do believe all doctors, nurses are compassionate. Some of them just don’t convey it when you have that bond. There’s something special about that bond that we had early on. One of my first guests name was Marcus Engle. And Marcus Engle had a similar story to yours in that when he was 19 years old was blindsided and T-boned and instantly went blind and had 50 surgeries just like you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (26m 29s):
But so he’s in the trauma center. Every bone in his face was broken. And Marcus Engle wrote a book called “I’m Here” because what he remembered in the midst of, you know, a 19 year old kid being in a trauma center where people are cutting his chest and screaming and yelling and do this and do that. And he’s bleeding to death and they’re hanging IVs. Someone came, who was a nurse tech nurse assistant held his hand and just said, I’m here. And that’s what he remembered. And I bet you, there’s certain people that you remember that helped you through that. Not including your wife. Those
Jason Schechterle (27m 2s):
Are the people I do remember the ones who would just touch my arm or my hand, and simply say something like that. You know what, I’m right here and I’m not leaving.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 13s):
Amazing. So you go through all this, not only do you survive, you end up going back as a police officer. And I think you even played golf again, right. Even though your hands, are you playing a little golf or are you hitting golf balls?
Jason Schechterle (27m 28s):
You know, I’m very proud of both those things. So many people, my doctors put in front of them, really, everybody said my career was over and I’m the one who stood up and said, you know, I’m a cop, not 40 hours a week. It’s not going to be taken away. I did go back. I ended up being a homicide detective, which was just wonderful to do something so much more important than just me, you know, speaking for victims who couldn’t speak for themselves and working with families like that. And then, yeah. You know, the golf, I think it’s important to talk about that because that is the one thing that I gave up. The one thing that I said I can’t, because I was a two handicap when I got hurt.
Jason Schechterle (28m 10s):
I mean, I could play this game and my hands are very deformed. I’ve had so many surgeries and therapy to get my hands just to where I could do very basics, open, you know, something to make dinner. But the thought of every time you, again, tying a tie was nowhere in my mind, but especially to hold onto the little golf club with these hands and the eyesight that I was, you know, doctors amazing what they did in getting me some eyesight back to where I could drive and work. And, you know, I don’t have 20/20 vision, but I could see good enough to do these things. And when I started to practice golf again, which was around 2006, I worked at it just as I worked at golf, just as hard as I worked at learning how to walk again, learning how to eat food, learning how to talk through these skip graphs or the pain of these hands.
Jason Schechterle (29m 7s):
And I did get back to playing golf on a regular basis. And I got my handicap back down to a one and there was a time I sat there and I said, you know, your handicap is lower than it was when you had 10 dexterous fingers and perfect eyesight. And again, it’s silly and simple to talk about golf when you’re comparing it to fourth degree burns. But it was so important in my recovery process is so important to tell other people that there’s nothing as powerful as a made up mind. And it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. If you’re doing it for somebody else, like as a doctor, you tried to help somebody as a child. You’re trying to help somebody or personally when you’re alone with your thoughts, which everybody should know, it’s the most dangerous place you’re ever going to be.
Jason Schechterle (29m 54s):
And you’re there all the time. You’re stuck with your thoughts all the time. And that was a big part of me knowing that I was okay, was to get back to just the normalcy and it’d be good. Again, that’s something I used to be good at. I don’t think it changed. I played golf before, I play golf now. nothing is different.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 14s):
That’s amazing coming from someone who’s a 16 handicap and taking it down. And whether I play six times a week or once a month, I’m still a 16 handicap. And maybe I’ll have to come out to Phoenix for a few lessons. Let’s talk about someone in the book. I mean, your wife is incredibly dedicated and the love that she showed and that you have for each other, it goes without saying, but there’s another person in your life that really, to me, exemplifies friendship and comradery between two police officers. And that was Brian Chapman. Tell me about Brian.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 54s):
And there’s a part in the book where I can’t remember his name, but Brian’s boss said to him, after that fateful night, your job is to take care of the family. And I think it was a long time before he actually went back. His, that was his only job. And he took it willingly.
Jason Schechterle (31m 11s):
They took it very serious. You know, he likes to tease me that he went from working 40 hours a week to work at 90 hours a week. But yeah, and again, the human side, just the other day I was teaching at the academy and Brian is now the commander in charge of our academy. So when the recruits see him, it’s that level of respect. And of course, chain of command is big with us, but I had him stand next to me. I said, you know, just like all of you, we sat in those chairs and here’s what Brian went through. And you know, he’s the one who identified me at the hospital through a strange set of circumstances that he happened to intercept the ambulance.
Jason Schechterle (31m 52s):
He took one look at me and he actually said, thank God that’s not Jason. You know, he couldn’t get a hold of me. I wasn’t asking myself to answer the police radio. So he thought it was me, but then he saw me and thanks God that it wasn’t, and that’s pretty powerful. And then when they took me into the hospital room and cut up my uniform, he recognized and identified me through a tattoo on my arm. And you’re right. He was faced. He got no time to mourn his own feelings. He didn’t even have time to worry about me along just like the doctors, he knew I was going to die and he had to go wake my wife up the middle of the night and change her life forever.
Jason Schechterle (32m 32s):
It’s so powerful. And I went through this later, not with people I knew and loved. I looked through it. I did a lot of next to kin notifications as a homicide detective. It’s a powerful feeling to know you’re about to change this person’s life forever. As soon as you utter those words. And he said, he pulled up in front of my house and he actually sat there for about five minutes just to give my wife that extra five minutes of peaceful sleep before he knocked on the door. And, and then he was, he took of her, got her to the hospital, got my parents out of bed, all of our friends down there.
Jason Schechterle (33m 12s):
And then he was right there with me through everything from therapy to just great conversations. Tell me what’s going on on the streets, not talking about my injuries. And again, I’m just Jay, I’m still Jason. We laughed about stuff. We’ve talked about our kids, you know, he’s a husband and a father. He understood. And he’s just right there with me. When I first started traveling and speaking, and I needed that emotional crutch of, you know, I didn’t want to get stared at walking through airports alone or trying to go get food and not being able to read a menu or whatever. And, you know, thankfully I finally, I travel alone now and it, it does give me a lot of strings, but Brian was the one he was always there.
Jason Schechterle (33m 52s):
And all these years later, we’re best friends. And I respect what he’s gone through. Again, everybody has a story, right? Nobody would look at him, but what he went through with me was maybe different. But I would say just as difficult, it wasn’t as what I want, it’s harder to watch somebody you love go through that. I firmly believed that I had the easiest part of this compared to my wife and my children, my parents, and my friends. And so, yeah, I’m glad Brian was highlighted because he’s an outstanding individual. And again, now he’s the commander of the academy in the fifth largest city in the country. He’ll end up being the chief of police in the next five years.
Jason Schechterle (34m 35s):
I mean, he’s awesome.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 36s):
Famous Rabbi Kushner that I talked about in this all the time, you know, he wrote when bad things happen to good people. I saw him at an interview many years ago and he was discussing the difference between curing and healing. And he said, God, doesn’t always cure, but God always heals. And what he said is what God does is God sends you people to help. And it sounds like he sent you these amazing doctors. He sent you a wife who I haven’t met her, but she’s an amazing person. And the love that you guys have and people like Brian, and I’m a true believer that in tragedy, God will, God will send you those people that will help you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (35m 19s):
And that’s just an amazing story. So Jason, last week we were supposed to do this, but you had a final baseball game. I think now tell us the story you have, how many children now
Jason Schechterle (35m 29s):
I have three children and my daughter. So I had two at the time I had a seven year old daughter and a son who turned three while I was in my coma. And I love talking about my kids because you talk about inspiration and watching people overcome. And firstly, my daughter grew up, she’s finishing her final year of a psychology program at Baylor university doing developmental child psychology. She got married three years ago. I got to walk her down the aisle. She is now six months pregnant. I’m going to be a grandpa. And yeah, now at my age, I’m so glad I started so young. She’s 27 and I’m going to be a young grandpa.
Jason Schechterle (36m 11s):
My son who turned three in a column that he grew up with a tremendous amount of adversity. You know, he had a severe eating disorder. He just a ton of anxiety. It’s a lot to go through at that age, that life change. And it was all the way up until he graduated high school. It was a scary thing. And he went off to college and became a hotel management major. And just a week ago, he moved to Manhattan. And I mean, this kid who couldn’t eat or leave home is now living in New York city, working at a hotel at times square. And I just, he really is my biggest inspiration. I mean, I asked you to reschedule last week cause we had a, again, so much credit to my wife and how she overcame this, but we had another baby 18 months after the accident.
Jason Schechterle (37m 2s):
And it really put into perspective for us while I love my doctors and my firefighters. It was a chance to show not only me, but them. This is why you did what you did. This is an entire life. And when he grows up that he has children. If they have children, now we’re talking about something that goes on and on for generations and he’s growing up to be just an amazing man. He’s getting ready to graduate high school. He’s very good at baseball. And yeah, last Monday was the final home game at his high school. And I knew that I was never going to see him at back uniform again. And I wasn’t about to miss it. You know, thankfully his baseball days, aren’t over, he’s gone on to play college baseball in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jason Schechterle (37m 44s):
And so it’s a weird time of I’m so emotional these days because I’ve got a daughter pregnant in Texas, I’ve got a son in New York city, I’ve got a son moving to North Carolina and all of a sudden the house is empty and I’m like, wow, that’s snuck up on me really fast, but they’re just beautiful souls. So much compassionate love in these kids. And they’re doing great things. I’m very proud of them and they’ve helped me out a lot.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (38m 10s):
I’m sure that through you they’ve seen what the human spirit can do with people who fight through adversity. And sounds like they’ve learned an awful lot from you, by the way, if anybody was not paying attention, his son was born 18 months after the tragedy. So do the math. I mean, that’s a quick recovery, Jason, at any point during all this pain, cause I know it’s a painful procedure at any point, did you consider giving up?
Jason Schechterle (38m 40s):
There were times that first year, especially, you know, I always say whenever something really big happens to you, maybe like the divorce or catastrophic injury or death in the family, you can always look back at a date and say, well, I was doing this on this date and I want to go back to that. So that first year of 65 days, it’s like a, just a little box that you’re stuck in. And once you’ve passed that first anniversary, then it’s like, you can breathe again. At least that’s how it was for me . And thankfully I didn’t want to commit suicide. I didn’t have any serious mental problems over this. I didn’t have any PTSD because I wasn’t targeted. The guy was having an epileptic seizure. He wasn’t trying to hurt me.
Jason Schechterle (39m 21s):
And I’m very lucky for that. I’m grateful for that. And I recognize that, but there were a lot of times that I just was like, you know what, with this appearance, being blind was so claustrophobic and terrifying the shape of my hand. There were times where I just wanted to sit at home and be left alone. And that was okay, you know? And it was okay for people to leave me alone and give me those few hours or maybe a day or two. And then I’d be like, all right, let’s get back into it. Let’s get back to therapy and fight. So I didn’t necessarily want to give up, but there were times when I needed a break for sure. And again, I always tell people this and it’s hard, but it’s okay to not be okay. And it is more than ok to be vulnerable, even though we don’t want to talk about it.
Jason Schechterle (40m 5s):
We don’t most say when we are, but it really is a beautiful place to be because you just build so much strength and you see so much beauty inside of them. And so that helped me a lot even to this day, you know, again, I’m very emotional this week. I have one son moved to New York once I finished high school baseball and I I’ve shed more tears in the past seven days than in the past seven years combined and I still smile when I’m crying because I’m like, you know what? It’s so great to be alive. This range of emotions. And there’s a lot more coming. I know I’m going to go through a lot more in life and I’m appreciative for what I have gone through that.
Jason Schechterle (40m 45s):
I’m where I am and I am smiling. I’m happy. I know I’m going to be okay.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (40m 50s):
And the final part of the book is not only did you do amazing things to help yourself. You are a great role model for your kids and everyone out there who is fighting adversity, but you ended up helping and probably saving the lives of many other police officers because of the Ford motor company. And as I read the book, I’m telling you, you got to read this book. I’m not just blowing smoke up your, you know what, but actually this book could be a movie, Jason. I mean, this is a great book because you know, lawyers as part of a class action, right? Go after the part of the crown Victoria was having problems for years, right?
Jason Schechterle (41m 28s):
A lot of years. And this also helped me not only give me some purpose in life, but again, the added, just keep piling on the gratitude and the perspective so many police officers have died in these fuel fed fires, countless civilians that don’t get discussed on TV. Like my story did. And I’m the one who gets a firetruck at the intersection. So how dare I, no, I’m not going to question God as to why. And I’m certainly not going to be angry at him, but I do think that all of these other individuals deserve the same opportunity to go home to their families and they didn’t get that. I got the fire truck at my intersection.
Jason Schechterle (42m 9s):
So I was darn sure to fight and be a face. It’s easy to talk about people when they die. Right? Cause they’re gone. And well, when you look at my face and you hear my voice, I get to put up a fight. And so you have the advocacy to get these cars to be made safer and then finally quit making them in 2011. And now you do not hear about these accidents. And a lot of lives have been saved through a lot of people worked on this. I mean, so many people fought this fight and I’m very proud of that.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (42m 43s):
You saved numerous lives. You could have easily just said, listen, I’ve been through enough. I don’t want to go through this. Cause you got to give depositions, but you want it to make sure that your fellow police officers or really anyone driving these cars. And so now they’re gone and partly that’s because of you and the other people that were involved in the lawsuit. So that’s amazing. Jason, I usually finish each podcast with a question. This one’s going to be a hard one for you. So maybe not because it’s called difficult conversations out of all the difficult conversations that you had, what do you think was the toughest one? And give us some advice on how to navigate that.
Jason Schechterle (43m 26s):
Yeah. As you could imagine, that old saying you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors is very true. And to say that my wife and I had a lot of tough conversations or you asked just a few minutes ago, I felt like giving up. And I remember during one of my, what I call a quiet periods, my wife, I mean, she, she was yelling and screaming at me. I wouldn’t be surprised that she broke a couple of things in the house. And she told me if you think I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through so that you could give up. Now you’re crazy. That’s not what we’re doing here. And, and then my, you know, my desire to go back to work against the advice. I mean, I even talked to Crusoe who died, I called him and said, I need you to write me a prescription for a Bulletproof vest.
Jason Schechterle (44m 8s):
I don’t know if you know this, but if you get injured, if your vest gets ruined in the line of duty, you get to replace it. Those vests are expensive. They’re like 700-800 bucks. And when I called him and he said, what are you talking about? So I’m going back to work. He goes, no, you’re not at that. I said, yes, I can. I know. So I really don’t know what the, the toughest one is because there are so many surrounding, what’s the best thing to do for our kids at this young age as their minds and their emotions, time to develop. What’s the best thing to do. I mean, marriage is difficult, but you throw in some life changing adversity it gets really difficult.
Jason Schechterle (44m 49s):
You know, we had our fair share of fights and disagreements of discussions, conversations just with doctors. Yeah. I don’t know. I wish I could answer it. No, I mean, i’ve had so many, it’s not a fair question, But so, so many, but the beauty is I remember the good ones. I remember the positive ones and the ones that were life changing for the better. And let me answer the question though, with this, because I want to give my wife all the credit she can get, I want her to get credit for this. My wife was the one, no matter what my parents or family was were saying, and of course everybody’s got their opinion, right?
Jason Schechterle (45m 30s):
Everybody’s an expert, all of a sudden and thinks they know and families, when you go through something like this, you either get closer or you get torn apart. But your spouse is the one who is stuck with the final decision that when a doctor asks a question or says, here’s what I want to do. She has to sign the paperwork. And these fourth degree burns. I needed something to attach my skin graphs to. And it’s called integra. Well, nobody had ever had their entire head wrapped in integra. These doctors did not know if it would work. And it was put squarely on the shoulders of my wife. Do you want to try it or not? And the doctors were very honest and just said, we’ll do it if you want.
Jason Schechterle (46m 15s):
We won’t do it if you don’t want. And she made the decision to say yes, and it saved my life and I get it. So I give her a lot of credit. Cause I can’t even imagine what that conversation would have been. I Can’t even imagine.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (46m 29s):
Yeah. And she’s a God certainly sent her to you as Rabbi Kushner would say. Jason, I want to talk about what you’re doing now, moving forward. But before I say that, if you want it to just tell us the audience, one piece of advice, and I know you do this during your speaking, what would it be?
Jason Schechterle (46m 46s):
Don’t let the pain of today deprive you of the promise of tomorrow. You know, we’re going to experience so much in this life and it’s short. It’s precious. But if we get to continue living, if you get to wake up every day, you find something to be grateful for and to learn from what you’ve got to adjust to do not give up on anything. Don’t forget. You’re only going to experience the sadness and the pain and the anger and all these bad things that we don’t like. You’re only going to experience that if you’re lucky enough to live a nice long life, don’t give up on it. Don’t give up on the promise of tomorrow, because it will come time does heal. I mean, I know you know that as a doctor, but it’s true.
Jason Schechterle (47m 28s):
It does get better. Don’t give up.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (47m 31s):
And nobody symbolizes that more than you. You retired from the police department and now speaking, and where are you speaking? How can people get in touch with you to ask you to present? I heard your Ted talk and it’s amazing. So I know you’re pretty good at it. Maybe not as good as golf, but you’re a pretty good speakers.
Jason Schechterle (47m 51s):
Talks are a good thing because they’re short and only 12 minutes long. My normal presentation is a little over an hour and I have 37 slides and a PowerPoint that I, you know, I just speak from the heart. I love doing it. I, up until COVID hit, I was doing about 75 a year, all over the country from wow, for everything from organ and tissue organizations to law enforcement, hospitals, real estate, accounting firms, you name it. And I just love to go out and share my story and to connect with other people. And you know, I always tell people my former career and my injuries are the two least important parts of this story.
Jason Schechterle (48m 34s):
This is just about life. And we’ve all got a story and we’ve all got things that we need to overcome. And I mean, it’s so easy to get ahold of him because of my crazy last night. And the book is burning shield my website is Burningshield.com. Jason@Burningshield.com. I’m the only one who checks my emails on the only one who scheduled my speaking. I don’t have any, you know, assistant. You can see I’m sitting in my living room right now. I don’t have an office. I don’t have anything like that, but it’s something that I love to do. And I hope to do it or many years to come
Dr. Anthony Orsini (49m 5s):
In the show notes, I’ll put all your contact information. I really recommend that anybody out there is looking for an inspirational speaker call you. This has been amazing. Jason, I am going to be giving a workshop and a lecture in Phoenix in November. It’s a four-day conference. I’m going to be speaking the day one and day four. So if you don’t mind giving me 16 strokes, maybe we can play 15 probably by now at 18 handicap. Hopefully you’re one of those tolerant, good golfers that don’t care.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (49m 45s):
If I’m shanking it all over the place
Jason Schechterle (49m 48s):
November, you know, it’s not a hundred degrees and we have some pretty good golf courses here. So I’d love to treat you and spend time with you and come to the conference.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (49m 56s):
That’ll be fantastic. I can’t wait. I’ll send you all those dates and maybe you can do something with my game to get me down to a 14. I have no idea, but I’ve had so many lessons or they keep telling me every time I take a lesson, they say, stop trying to kill the damn ball and hit it like a baseball. And I go, yes. And then I try to kill it. So it’s in my head. So, but anyway, Jason, thank you so much. This is always a lot of fun seeing you in November and we’ll be in touch real soon. Thanks again.
Jason Schechterle (50m 25s):
Thank you so much.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (50m 26s):
If you enjoyed this podcast, please go ahead and hit subscribe or follow as it is on apple. Now, if you want to get in touch with me, you can reach me. theorsiniway.com again. Thank you Jason, and I will be in touch soon.
Jason Schechterle (50m 41s):
Sounds good. Thank you, sir.
Announcer (50m 42s):
aIf you enjoy this podcast, please hit the subscribe button and leave a comment and review. To contact Dr. Orsini and his team, or to suggest guests for future podcast visit us @theorsiniway.com.
Dr. Anthony Orsini
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