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Severely burned former Phoenix police officer continues serving others

PHOENIX — Severely burned in the line of duty while working as Phoenix police officer, Jason Schechterle describes himself as the luckiest man on earth.

On March 26, 2001, Schechterle’s patrol car was struck from behind by a taxi going more than 100 mph. He was trapped inside, and his patrol car burst into flames.

Miraculously, a Phoenix Fire Department truck was at the intersection where the accident took place.

Firefighters were able to pull Schechterle from the vehicle, but in just seconds he’d suffered severe burns on 40 percent of his body, including his head, face and hands.

His painful recovery included almost 50 surgeries, a coma of nearly three months and even a battle against blindness.

Eighteen months after the accident, Schechterle was back on the job.

“I was very blessed,” he said.

“I was 28 years old. I had a great career and I had a lot of reasons to fight and get better — although I truly thought I was going to die.”

He continued to serve on the force, and even became a father for the third time, until he retired in 2006.

Since then, he found a way to serve the community without wearing a police uniform.

As a spokesperson for Serenity Hospice, Schechterle talks about end-of-life issues at assisted living homes.

“I try to be as raw, real and vulnerable about life and death when I’m talking to these folks,” he said.

Schechterle’s father died last year, and he uses the positive and what he calls “beautiful” hospice experience as a talking point during his discussions.

“My father without a doubt was my best friend, the closest person to me,” he said. “Ironically, he passed away on the 16th anniversary of my accident.”

Schechterle shares his experience because he knows how scary it is and understands that the unknowns can take a toll on family members when they should be honoring and grieving their loved one.

Discussing his own experience with hospice, he says he held his father’s hand as he passed away peacefully.

“It gave me a chance to be a son,” he said. “It gave my family a chance to just give gratitude, love and honor what his life was, and it gave him peace.”

While discussing the importance of hospice care, Schechterle continues to dedicate his life to sharing his story of overcoming adversity and giving others the chance to share their stories.

“I think of all us want to know that our loved ones are going to be comfortable,” he said. “I have always said it’s easier to go through something than watch someone you love go through it.”

“Even with my burn injuries at such a young age, I really had the easy part. My family had the tough part. I encourage people to think about what it does for your family after you are gone.”

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