New Brunswick

'You can't keep me down long:' Allergic reaction sends respiratory therapy grad to ICU

It takes a lot to stop Jazmin Chase from pursuing her dream job, and on Friday, her resolve was tested to the limits.

A day after interview about living with allergies, Jazmin Chase is intubated for coming in contact with nuts

Jazmin Chase was rushed to hospital Friday with a severe reaction to nuts. She spent the weekend intubated, as her friends at her bedside helped her study for her final exam. (Submitted by Jazmin Chase)

It takes a lot to stop Jazmin Chase from pursuing her dream job, and on Friday, her resolve was tested to the limit.

Just one day after the Saint John woman shared her story about the life-threatening allergies and asthma that inspired her to follow a career in respiratory therapy, she came in contact with nuts.

On her last day of classes, Chase was rushed to hospital with a rapidly swelling airway.

She was supposed to write her final exam at NBCC Saint John on Monday.

"My airway was so swollen they didn't think I was going to be able to maintain it myself, and so I was on a ventilator for 52 hours," Chase, 24, told Information Morning Saint John on Wednesday.

"It was a very strange turn of events because that's my job. I work with the ventilators and I ended up on one myself. I guess I wanted the full clinical experience before I became a respiratory therapist."

Cookies triggered reaction

Chase attends classes at NBCC​'s nut-free Allied Health Education Centre, on the UNB Saint John campus, but someone had brought in an assorted box of treats, which contained peanut butter cookies.

Chase didn't ingest them, but simply being near the spread was enough to trigger an anaphylactic reaction.

"I suddenly broke out into a rash. … My friends got me out of the class and we tried to get down to the hospital, but it wasn't quick enough," she said.

Chase passed her final exam on Tuesday, two days after she was taken off a ventilator following a serious anaphylactic reaction last week. (Jazmin Chase/Submitted)

Her friends administered two EpiPens as they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Once in hospital, she was intubated and unable to speak or eat. However, she insisted she and her friends continue studying for the exam.

"I had no idea if I would get to write it at all," she said.

"It was one of those things, where I was like, 'Did I make it this far and just end here?'"

The tube was removed Sunday once her breathing stabilized, and Chase was discharged from the Saint John Regional Hospital on Monday. She wrote — and passed — her exam on Tuesday.

Wednesday was her first day on the job in acute care at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.

"You can't keep me down long."

Chase begins her job in acute care at the Campbellton Regional Hospital on Wednesday.
Chase's voice hasn't fully recovered, and the anaphylactic episode has left her short of breath. She's now taking steroid medication to keep the inflammation down.

'Nowhere is safe'

She said the experience, in a place that's normally conscious about her allergies, was eye-opening.

"My school is not somewhere I usually have to have my guard up. I've never had to be hyper-vigilant there," she said.

"Being in the hospital and having a lot of time to think while on the ventilator, it was like, 'OK, nowhere is ever safe.'

"I can't trust people who don't live with what I live with, even to the point where the only person I can trust is myself," said Chase.

Chase began her studies with special insight into the program, having grown up with severe asthma and anaphylactic allergies that landed her in the pediatric intensive care unit on several occasions.

She was on 18 medications and a breathing machine by the time she was 18 years old.

Her sister, Ashton died unexpectedly of anaphylaxis at age 13 in 2011. After that experience, Chase said, she resolved to do everything she could to get her health on track and help others.

With files from Information Morning Saint John