Learn more about flu prevention.
Jason Kirchick knows first-hand just how serious the flu can be. In 2014, he contracted the H1N1 influenza virus and became critically ill. So ill in fact that doctors at the UVM Medical Center placed him in an induced coma for two months. It was a long road to recovery.
Jason had not received a flu shot that year.
“It was a roller coaster event that impacted not only me and my family, but also an entire community as well as the community at the medical center,” Jason said. He had septic shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and multi-organ failure. It was a serious case; but, he pulled through. After waking up from the coma, he was transferred to inpatient rehabilitation at Fanny Allen where he spent two months learning to walk and function once again.
“I would never want anyone to live through that same event and go through what I did. It’s just getting the flu vaccine. Knowing what I know now, I get my flu shot,” he says. Now, every year, he and his family and friends get their flu shots together as part of an annual tradition.
Prior to his flu event in 2014, Jason worked on the management side of healthcare and was very active in his community volunteering on various boards and serving as a Firefighter and EMT in Stowe, Vermont. Jason credits the incredible community support that helped him and his family get through that tough time as a shining example of the positive outcomes that can result when communities come together to help one of their own.
The medical and nursing care Jason received while a patient at the UVM Medical Center ignited in him the passion and drive to become a nurse. After coming home from the hospital, he took prerequisite classes for nursing school. After finishing those, Vermont Tech accepted him into its nursing program. At the same time, he became a Patient Family Advisor at the medical center and completed graduate work in Public Health.
In May 2018, he graduated from nursing school and is focused on research to positively impact patient family centered care.
Today, Jason is a pediatric hi-tech nurse for the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) and is working on his graduate thesis in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. He continues his work as a Patient Family Advisor at the UVM Medical Center.
He participates in service work outside the U.S. During nursing school, he traveled to Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru as part of a MedLife service trip with students from Vermont Tech. There, they provided medical service and assistance to impoverished members of that community. Kirchick remembers seeing a young burn victim who could barely move his head due to his injuries. Jason and his colleagues worked hard to provide the young man and his family with medical assistance and a fully updated kitchen. “It was a real eye-opener,” he says, “seeing what health care is like in other countries. We don’t appreciate what we have here.”
Jason has never forgotten the illness or the incredible team and community that sparked his decision to become a nurse. Every flu season, Jason takes the time to educate and advocate for a cause he really cares about. He has one piece of advice: get your flu shot. “I hope it impacts people and makes them think ‘I never want to go through what this young man did.’ I had to go through a good two years to get back to myself again,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest reason I advocate for the flu shot. It’s a safe vaccination that does a lot of good in protecting people.”
Learn more about flu prevention.