‘BURNING SHIELD’ SURVIVOR JASON SCHECHTERLE TELLS CTIR STAFF ‘YOU GUYS MADE IT POSSIBLE’

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Burn survivor & tissue transplant recipient Jason Schechterle speaks to staff member at the Center for Tissue, Innovation and Research

KETTERING, Ohio – Phoenix Police Officer Jason Schechterle lost everything the night his patrol car exploded in flames.  By a miracle he was still alive, but he was left without his face, his vision, his very identity.

More than 50 surgeries and multiple skin transplants have helped Jason regain much of what he lost and something more.  He now stands as a witness to his own rebirth. On Nov. 11 he visited the Community Tissue Services Center for Tissue Innovation and Research to tell his story in three separate staff meetings and then sign copies of his biography, “Burning Shield.”

His story is shocking, improbable, and inspiring.  On the night of March 26, 2001 he got a call to respond to a possible homicide. As he approached a major Phoenix intersection he was rammed from behind by taxi traveling faster than 150 miles per hour.

Jason patrol car was immediately engulfed in flames.  In his examination of this turning point in his life he sees a sequence of misfortunes, followed by a sequence of events essential to his survival.

The emergency call had come at the very end of his shift.  The taxi driver had a history of epilepsy. He should never have been behind the wheel that night when he suffered a seizure and struck Jason.

But fortune turned in his favor.  A fire truck was stopped 55 feet away at the same intersection.  Two police officers were nearby and pulled him from the flames just 90 second after the crash.  He was in emergency surgery eight minutes later.

That was just the beginning of Jason’s journey to recovery. He had suffered severe burns to over 40 percent of his body.  The Jason that spoke at CTIR is confident, humble and filled with a sense of purpose.  But there is no ignoring the injury that has left him permanently scarred.

PUTTING EVERYONE AT EASE

“I was at an airport gift shop, and a woman came up to me,” Jason said as he began his talk. “She said, ‘Do you mind if I ask what happened?’  I said, ‘What are you talking about?’  She said, ‘Your face?’  And I said, ‘Oh, I’m from Phoenix and after a long summer this is what everybody looks like!’”

After breaking the ice with laughter, Jason began his message. “Every single one of you here is going through something in your life,” he said. “Think about what you’re going through now and what tools you have in your toolbox to help you get through them.”

Jason was inspired to become a police officer on March 26, 1999, the day he turned on the news and learned Phoenix Officer Mark Jackson had been killed in the line of duty.  In 2000, at age 28, he earned his badge.

He contemplates that he suffered his near fatal accident on the two year anniversary of Mark Jackson’s death.  “You can let adversity define you,” he said, “or you can let it strengthen you.”

Jason was burned beyond recognition. His best friend said, “Thank God it wasn’t Jason,” before recognizing the tattoo on his arm.  A priest gave him last rights. His doctors said they had never seen burns so severe and there was no way he would live.  They placed him in a medically induced coma.

“I lost my ears, nose, eyelids,” he said. “The entire identity I’d known for 28 years – gone.”

A MESSAGE TO CTIR STAFF

Part of his talk was only for CTIR. “This goes to the heart of what you do,” he said. “In the hours after the accident this guy doesn’t survive without what you do. I needed skin grafts to survive.  Don’t forget there is someone at the final destination who will benefit from what you do.”

Jason learned of his condition when he emerged from his coma in June, two and a half months after the accident.  “You can’t be told about something life-changing, especially something tragic, and say OK,” he said. “I was blind, alone with my thoughts all the time.”

He traced and retraced the tragedy.  “He (the taxi driver) made several bad decisions that led him to that intersection. I made many good decisions that led me to that intersection.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I have a strong belief in accountability – we are exactly where we have chosen to be.  Small decisions we make every day will have a ripple effect.”

He was able to come home months ahead of schedule, but his return upset his young son who cried, “You’re not my dad!”

His eyes had been covered so his corneas could heal.  He said waking up to light after surgery was a blessing and soon a confrontation.  “I was finally in front of a mirror to see what others are seeing,” he said. “It drove me crazy not to have ears!”

An undercover make-up expert tried to help with prosthetic nose and ears.  He said the glue broke down in the Arizona sun “and my ears fell off.”

His biggest laugh came in telling the story of running a short distance as a torch bearer of the Olympic flame.  “Don’t let the flame get too close to your face,” warned a young volunteer.  “No sh–!” Jason replied.

He also knows how it feels to hear the cheers of 40,000 people as he threw out the first pitch at an Arizona Diamondbacks game.  Listening to his team play in the World Series had given him a vital distraction during the darkest days of his recovery.

The high point of his journey was the birth of his son Nathan in 2002.  “Taking him home from the hospital made everything I went through totally worth it,” he said.  “You guys made it possible.”

 

LIFE BEYOND THE BADGE

Jason went back to work for the Phoenix Police as a public information officer.  His goal was to become a detective, but his damaged hands couldn’t handle a firearm to meet the requirements.  He retired in 2006 with no regrets.  A nice consolation is that his golf handicap is better than before the accident.

“Life is truly 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,” he said. “Life is too short and too precious. Don’t let the pain of today blind you to the promise of tomorrow.

“I walk these halls and that puts it into perspective,” he said of the cycle of life from tissue donor to tissue recipient. “Every day someone is tragically losing their life.  But it comes full circle and it is all connected. When I see my children – I hope it resonates with you. It does make a difference.”

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WEST CARROLLTON HIGH DONORS OFFER LIFE-SAVING GRACE AT UNITY BLOOD DRIVE

west-carrollton-hs-unity-blood-driveWEST CARROLLTON, Ohio – West Carrollton High School answered the Universal 1 Credit Union “Unity in the Community” challenge by hosting a campus blood drive Friday, Dec. 2  and naming Bogg (“Because of God’s Grace”) Ministries to receive the $1,000 Unity award.

The “Unity in the Community” campaign is a partnership between Community Blood Center, Universal 1 Credit Union, and Miamisburg and West Carrollton High Schools. Universal 1 donates $500 to each school for hosting a fall blood drive. The rival schools combine the awards and present $1,000 to a charity.

WCHS students supported Friday’s Unity blood drive with 87 donors, including 61 first-time donors and 72 donations for 113 percent of the collection goal.  The combined West Carrollton and Miamisburg Unity blood drives resulted in 245 donor registrations, 183 first-time donors, and 195 blood donations.

Last year the MHS Student Government chose a favorite cause, the Montgomery County CARE House Child Advocacy Center, to receive the Unity award.  This year WCHS Student Body President Shea Shelton said they are excited to discover a new charity to support in Bogg Ministries.

“It’s grown into a lot of communities, some in Miamisburg and some in West Carrollton,” said Shea. “So it serves the people we help with blood donations and gives back to help families in our communities.”

Bogg is a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and other essentials to people in Miamisburg and the greater Dayton area.  Bogg began in 2010 and has gone from feeding four families a week to more than 1,500 people a month. Learn more at www.thebogg.org.

“It’s a new organization for us that we weren’t familiar with until some Student Council members brought it up,” said Student Council advisor and blood drive coordinator P.J. Babb. “They’re serving West Carrollton and the Dayton area so it fits.  It benefits both.”

The check presentation to Bogg Ministries will take place at West Carrollton’s Feb. 7 home basketball game again against Miamisburg.

Students were happy to support Bogg and the blood drive. “I’ve never donated before and I wanted to find out what it was like,” said senior Chris Maxwell “It’s quick and easy.”

Chris joined classmates Mohammed Ismail and Leann Smith as they gathered to support senior Alivia Rains as she made her first donation. “She texted me and said, ‘Come over and hold my hand, I’m so scared!’” said Mohammed. “They just love me!” said Alivia.

First-time donor Avery Clarkston said he came to donate “because they need healthy blood and I’m pretty healthy.”  Junior Abbey Peen, also a first-time donor, said, “I want to go into the medical field. I love children and I want to be a neo-natal nurse.”

Among the newcomers was Dean Mason, who qualified for CBC’s Red Cord Honor program with his third lifetime donation.  “I just feel it’s something I should do,” said Dean.

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THE FORCE IS STRONG IN THIS ONE!

The Star Wars saga returns to the big screen this holiday season & CBC is celebrating with the ‘Rogue Blood Donor – A Story of Hope’ t-shirt – FREE when you register to donate now through Jan. 7 at a CBC Donor Center or most CBC mobile blood drives. The ‘Rogue Blood Donor’ shirt is black with the iconic moon-sized space station in the shape of a blood drop! Be a force for good this holiday season – donate! DonorTime.com

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DONATION HALL OF FAMER LARRY SMITH IS ‘MR. DECEMBER’

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NATIONAL DONATION HALL OF FAME MEMBER LARRY SMITH IS ‘MR. DECEMBER’

Community Blood Center celebrated blind donor Larry Smith a year ago this month when he was inducted in the Fresenius Kabi National Donation Hall of Fame. The honor included a profile and photo in the 2016 Hall of Fame calendar. With the turn of the page to the final month of the year, it’s time to honor “Mr. December.”
On the day after Thanksgiving 2016 Larry gave platelets for his 316th lifetime blood donation. His picture in the calendar is from the day after Christmas in 2012 when he braved a winter storm to make his scheduled blood donation. It was an important contribution to the blood supply because the weather forced CBC to cancel all blood drives that day and close the Dayton Donor Center moments after Larry’s donation.
Larry’s snow storm donation was the basis of his nomination to the Hall of Fame, and his compelling life story impressed the judges even more. Larry has been blind since birth and was abandoned as an infant on the steps of a state orphanage. He survived a childhood full of hardship by finding a purpose in helping others.
After his induction in December, 2015 Larry was interviewed for a WHIO-TV news report about making a needed New Year’s Eve donation. He then made his milestone 300th lifetime donation in February. Anchor James Brown was impressed by Larry and profiled him in a WHIO “Making a Difference” report about outstanding citizens that aired on Newscenter 7 in March. Larry and the other honorees were invited to the annual celebration dinner at Cox Ohio Media Group last summer.
“I got to talk about donating and how I enjoy saving lives,” said Larry. “I talked about how I get called about where the blood goes. I enjoy saving lives, but especially when I found out it went to Dayton Children’s Hospital.”
Larry’s own childhood was filled with misery. “James Brown talked about my early life and the fact that at a time in my life I didn’t want to live,” Larry said. “I didn’t want to eat. I was treated badly in the children’s home. I didn’t see the purpose. What am I here for? To suffer at the hands of these people?
“But a lady, a new house mother, came into my life and she was my sunshine. She started me on vitamins and I got stronger. The staff got better and my life really changed.”
Larry came to Dayton and found a job perfectly suited to him. He worked 40 years as a hospital dark room X-ray film technician and made many friends. He ran marathons, competed in a blind bowling league and sang in his church choir. He began donating blood in 1994 and has been a platelet and plasma donor since 2004.
“The good Lord sends people into your life to strengthen you, help you out and put you on the right track,” he said.
“The biggest part was forgiveness. Someone at my church helped me with that. We prayed and I woke up to a voice telling me I’ve got to learn to forgive. I decided to use it. Rather than be bitter about it, I used it gain strength and to help people.”
His mission remains unchanged. No matter how many storms sweep the Miami Valley this winter, long after the calendar page turns from “Mr. December,” Larry Smith will still be walking in the light that shines on a “Donor for Life.”

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MIDPOINTE LIBRARY CELEBRATES YEAR OF DONORS HOOKED ON BOOKS & BLOOD DONATIONS

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WEST CHESTER, Ohio – Community Blood Center had good reason to give thanks on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 23 as donors filled the beds in the MidPointe Library West Chester Community Room to mark the one year anniversary of MidPointe’s monthly blood drives.

CBC reached out to MidPointe in 2015, hoping to find a reliable home for blood drives in the bustling West Chester area.  MidPointe found the idea completely compatible with its mission to be about “more than books” by providing visitors a center for multiple community activities.

MidPointe began with a Bloodmobile blood drive in October of 2015 then moved to the Community Room on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 25, 2015 for its first indoors blood drive.  The Community Room became the home for all future blood drives, held the fourth Wednesday of every month, always from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Like a best-selling novel climbing the charts the monthly blood drive took off. The 12 indoor blood drives averaged 56 donors and 48 donations per month, exceeding all collection goals.  Since the partnership began MidPointe has registered 707 donors, including 84 first-time donors, and collected 603 blood donations.

The anniversary blood drive again fell on the eve of Thanksgiving, and it was a day for donors to give thanks for a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The harmony of the location is clear to donor Lamia Scherzinger, an online college instructor. Her six-year-old son Adex and seven-year-old daughter Amira read their library books “Frog and Toad are Friends” and “Curious George Visits the Dentist” as mom made her third donation of the year at the MidPointe blood drive.

“I usually bring them because I work from home now and the hours for the blood drive are right after school,” she said. “I like for them to see me giving back to the community, and they get to eat cookies!”

The monthly blood drives continue to attract new MidPointe donors. “This is my first time here,” said Jim Cooper from Liberty Township.  “I work at Motoman and usually donate when the Bloodmobile comes there, but they only come every three months, and not during this holiday.”

Amanda Neu, a sixth-grade math teacher in Middletown, was familiar with the library but new to the blood drive. “I was walking by and saw the sign and thought, I hadn’t donated in a while,” she said.  Her last donation was in high school and this was a good chance to donate again before heading home to Louisville, Kentucky for Thanksgiving. “It’s a good library,” she said.

Jennifer Simbartl, a senior at DePauw University and a Lakota West High School graduate, had just arrived home in West Chester for Thanksgiving before coming to donate.  Jennifer said her parents are both donors and her mom reminded she and her brother about the MidPointe blood drive.

Even though she away at school most of the year, Wednesday marked the fourth time Jennifer has donated at MidPointe.  “It’s nice to be right here in the library,” she said. “It’s close to home and it always goes really quickly.”

The year of blood drives at MidPointe Library went by quickly.  Like a really good book, MidPointe’s loyal donors just can’t put it down.

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CBC GIVES THANKS TO DONOR BILL ASHWORTH FOR HIS 500TH DONATION MILESTONE

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DAYTON, Ohio – Community Blood Center gives thanks this Thanksgiving for donors like William “Bill” Ashworth. The Dayton retiree is 82 years old and still a very active “Donor for Life.”  CBC celebrated Bill on Wednesday, Nov. 23, the eve of Thanksgiving Day, as he made his milestone 500th lifetime blood donation.

Bill currently ranks fourth among CBC donors in lifetime donations. He routinely donates platelets every two weeks and has no plans to slow down.

“I’ve been all over this building giving platelets,” Bill said of the many changes he has seen at CBC’s Dayton headquarters over the years. “I started in ’62 or ’63. I gave whole blood until ‘90.  My wife had leukemia in ’89 and had to have platelets.”

Blood cancer patients commonly receive platelet transfusions as part of their treatment, and his wife’s need inspired Bill to become a platelet donor.  She went into remission, but she lost her battle when the leukemia returned 10 years later. “She had real aggressive treatment of chemotherapy, and got platelets again,” said Bill. “She was 10 years older and it didn’t work.”

He’s thankful for the help she received from blood donors and remains inspired to help others through his platelet donations.  He has happy memories of the time he and his wife spent at their lake cottage in their retirement.  He was a supervisor at GM Frigidaire until 1980 then retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 10 years as a mail carrier in Kettering.

Bill is also thankful for his family.  He has a daughter and son, four grandsons, and six grandchildren. He’ll celebrate Thanksgiving at his sister-in-law’s home, and will have another celebration Sunday at his daughter’s home.

CBC celebrated Bill with heart-shaped balloons on his donor bed and cupcakes in the Donor Café arranged to form the number 500.

“We thank you very much, especially for all you’ve done and for what a committed donor you are,” said CBC’s Chief Operating Officer Jodi Minneman as she presented Bill with a plaque honoring his 500th donation milestone. “We love our donors!”

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MIAMISBURG HIGH RALLIES FOR ‘TWO GREAT CAUSES’ IN UNITY BLOOD DRIVE CHALLENGE

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MIAMISBURG, Ohio – Rivals Miamisburg and West Carrollton High Schools are again joining forces to save and improve the lives of their neighbors.  The 2016 “Unity in the Community” campaign got underway Friday, Nov. 18 with Miamisburg High School’s Unity Blood Drive.

Friday’s MHS blood drive set a fast pace for this year’s campaign with 158 donors, including an outstanding 122 first-time donors and 123 blood donations for 108 percent of the collection goal.

The “Unity in the Community” campaign is a partnership between Community Blood Center, Universal 1 Credit Union, and Miamisburg and West Carrollton High Schools. Universal 1 donates $500 to each school as an award for hosting a fall blood drive. The rival schools combine the awards and present $1,000 to a charity.

Last year the MHS Student Government chose a favorite cause, the Montgomery County CARE House Child Advocacy Center, to receive the Unity award.  In April they also raised more than $5,500 for CARE House with the annual “Taking Strides for Prevention 5K Run/Walk.”

West Carrollton will choose the charity recipient this year.  MHS Student Government President Ryan Slaughenhaupt said emphasis this year was on supporting the Unity blood drive.

“We’ve had problems where every student didn’t understand what was going on with the blood drive and the goal of the Unity campaign,” said Ryan as he made his first lifetime donation Friday. “We’ve shown it on ‘Belvo TV’ at lunch. We definitely emphasized the blood drive, but its two great things in one, so you really can’t go wrong.”

“Ryan did a great job explaining it,” said Student Government advisor and blood drive coordinator Jennifer Brockert at Friday’s blood drive.  “We will definitely do CARE House for Unity next year.  We had all 160 spots filled for the blood drive and we’re working through our wait list now.”

Senior McKenzie Wilson made her third lifetime donation at Friday’s blood drive. “It’s just something to do for people – something I can do,” she said. “I know my blood type is helpful, especially for children and I have tons of nieces and nephews.”

MHS Student Government will host the third annual “Taking Strides for Prevention 5K Run/Walk” for CARE House on April 23, 2017.

“Child abuse is not mentioned as much as some other groups,” said Ryan. “In awareness, child abuse is not always up there. We take pride in giving voice to something that doesn’t usually have it.”

West Carrollton will host its “Unity in the Community Blood Drive” on Dec. 2.  The check presentation to the charity chosen by West Carrollton will take place at a Miamisburg-West Carrollton basketball game.