Cameron Peak Firefighter Spent 5 Weeks On Ventilator For COVID-19
Thousands of firefighters from around the country traveled to Colorado to battle the Cameron Peak Fire that first started on August 13.
While many out-of-state firefighters have returned to their respective units, several have not - including one firefighter from Washington who contracted COVID-19 while battling the now notorious wildfire.
Jason Phillips arrived in Colorado in August and spent two weeks fighting the Cameron Peak fire before coming down with COVID-like symptoms at the end of his shift on August 25.
“By that afternoon, my life was turned upside down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t keep [anything] down. My whole entire body was shaking so bad, I couldn’t hold a pencil to write my own name,” Phillips said, according to 9News.
Phillips visited the Poudre Valley emergency room to be administered a COVID-19 test that came back negative - so he went home. As his COVID-19 symptoms persisted, he returned to the hospital and was retested for COVID 19; The results came back positive.
“The morning of the 26th was when I got told, ‘we’d put you on a ventilator, and you have a 50-50 chance of surviving.’ And I told him – well, what if I don’t have the ventilator whatsoever? He said you’ll be dead by the morning,” Phillips told 9News.
The U.S. Forest Service firefighter was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) for COVID-19 treatment, where he was placed on a ventilator for 5 weeks.
Phillips spent 39 days in a coma at the Johnstown hospital and no longer has the ability to walk, 9News reported.
Jason Phillips has been a firefighter for 25 years and had been battling wildfires in different parts of the country before traveling to Fort Collins earlier this year.
Although Phillips has sustained other injuries throughout his career, doctors have told him it could be a year before he is fully recovered from COVID-19.
Despite contracting the novel coronavirus, Phillips told 9News that he'd do it all over again if it meant he would save the homes he protected here in Northern Colorado.
“I’m a pretty religious person when it comes to a lot of things. I believe he’s the creator of everything, so I believe if you’re going to die, you might as well be right with the one person you need to be right with,” he said. “It rearranges who you are as a person. You take what you had in the past, what you have now, and a lot of that stuff just doesn’t matter.”
Following his release from the ICU, Phillips was sent to an acute care and rehab facility. He hopes to return home to Washington in the coming days but is partially paralyzed from the waist down.
Phillips plans to go back to firefighting sometime next year, but he will need to undergo months of treatment before he's back on the frontline.
Phillips' wife has set up a GoFundMe on his behalf. To donate, click here.
Watch the video below to learn more about Jason Phillips and his story:
How The 2020 Cameron Peak Fire Has Grown