KEY POINTS

  • The firefighter spent 39 days in a coma and still finds it difficult to walk
  • It will take him a year to recover completely, says doctors
  • A firefighter for 25 years, Jason Philips has experienced many injuries due to his job

Jason Philips, a firefighter from Washington, came to Colorado in August and put himself on the line to protect lives and property from the Cameron Peak fire, a wildfire that spread about 15,000 acres. Little did he know that he would still be spending his Thanksgiving in a Colorado hospital after contracting COVID-19. 

Philips, who is a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, arrived in Fort Collins on Aug. 10 to fight one of Colorado’s largest-ever wildfire. But unfortunately, he didn’t feel well by the end of his overnight shift on Aug. 25. 

“By that afternoon, my life was turned upside down,” Philips told 9News. He couldn’t breathe or stop throwing up. “My whole body was shaking so bad, I couldn’t hold a pencil to write my own name,” Philips told 9News. 

With these symptoms, he was taken to the emergency room in Poudre Valley and was tested negative for the coronavirus. Although he was sent home after a few days, his symptoms persisted and he was taken to the hospital again. He was tested positive for the second time and the doctors had to shift him immediately to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

Philips recalls how the doctors broke the news to him, “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," he told 9News.

He was on the ventilator for more than five weeks until he tested negative for COVID-19 two times in a row. Philips spent 39 days in a coma and still finds it difficult to walk. With labored breathing, he was able to speak to 9News from his hospital bed in Johnstown. 

Does Philips regret coming to Colorado? He says no, and that he would do it all over again if it means saving that many houses from the wildfire. Philips has been a firefighter for 25 years and has experienced many injuries due to his job and that includes smoke inhalation and even a broken back. But now, his doctors tell him that it would take him a year before he recovers completely from the lingering effects of COVID. 

“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. He realizes that such experiences rearrange a person and make one think about the things in the past, what they have now and that a lot of it doesn’t matter in the end.

Philips plans to douse fires once again in 2021 but it would take him months of medical treatment to recover from the virus. 

Cameron Peak Wildfire Causes Mandatory Evacuation, Third Largest In Colorado History 

Baby Yoda Cat Saved From California Wildfires By Firefighters 

Firefighters keep watch on an approaching fire line on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, on September 27, 2020: the wildfire quickly spread over the mountains and reached Santa Rosa where it has begun to affect homes. Firefighters keep watch on an approaching fire line on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, on September 27, 2020: the wildfire quickly spread over the mountains and reached Santa Rosa where it has begun to affect homes. Photo: AFP / Samuel Corum