New Brunswick

Severe asthma, allergies spur Saint John grad to pursue career in respiratory therapy

Jazmin Chase, 24, whose life has been altered by severe allergies and asthma is about to begin a career to help others affected by the same issues.

Jazmin Chase spent much of her life in hospital, lost sister to anaphylaxis, sparking passion for profession

Jazmin Chase is graduating from NBCC Saint John in June and will pursue a career as a respiratory therapist. (Jazmin Chase/Submitted)

Jazmin Chase spent much of her life in a hospital bed.

Now, the 24-year-old Saint John woman will dedicate her career to being at a patient's bedside.

Chase is graduating from NBCC Saint John this month and getting ready to start her job as a respiratory therapist, or RT.

She 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.

'I know how that feels'

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

"It even got to the point where I spent my grad year of high school home-schooled because my immune system was too low to attend public school," Chase said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

"Any type of breathing test we have to do, any type of blood work or anytime someone is on a ventilator, I can look at them and go, 'I've been there. I know how that feels.'"

Chase said she never considered a career in respiratory therapy until 2011, when her sister Ashton died of an anaphylactic reaction at age 13. (Jazmin Chase/Submitted)

Despite her frequent encounters with respiratory specialists during her hospital stays over the years, Chase said she never considered a future in that role until her sister, Ashton, died unexpectedly of anaphylaxis at age 13 in 2011.

Chase was there when it happened and performed CPR, but she was unable to revive Ashton.

After that experience, Chase resolved to do everything she could to get her health on track and help others.

"Every time I look at a patient, I think, what if this was my mother, what if this was my sister, and anytime I do CPR on a patient, I think I need to do this just as hard as the night I tried to save my sister," Chase said.

"I just want to be the best respiratory therapist I can be. Not just clinically and skill-wise, but also empathetically and emotionally."

Chase, 24, said the care she received at McMaster University's Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health motivated her to pursue the same career. (Jazmin Chase/Submitted)

Chase's dreams were realized thanks in part to treatment she received at the McMaster University Medical Centre in Hamilton, Ont.

She underwent a bronchial thermoplasty to improve her breathing and met a series of RTs who attended her surgeries, made her feel at home and sparked a passion for the profession.

"Once I realized my health was getting better from these procedures, I thought, maybe I can pursue my dreams," she said. "I was never told if a future was a reality for me, or if I would have to be on disability for the rest of my life.

"I was really scared to dream, but once I realized it was possible, I started to pursue that as an education."

Full circle transition

Chase will graduate on Monday following her final exam and will receive her diploma June 21. She will take the challenging national registration exam in July and already has a job lined up at the Campbellton Regional Hospital, where she will work in acute care.

It's a full-circle transition in her care, said John Doucet, acting co-ordinating instructor for the respiratory program at NBCC Saint John.

"It's one thing to go through the motions of wanting to become a respiratory therapist, but it's another thing to have that passion and the drive to be one of the best, and this is everything Jazmin has exhibited from the moment she stepped foot in this program," said Doucet.

"We don't want students to sympathize with patients, we want them to show empathy. For the patients, it shows they're able to touch base with them on a level that someone who has never gone through that can do."

Doucet said the whole program is all the better for Chase's involvement in it.

"Jazmin knows the consequences of not being up to date, so she's been a strong motivator for her classmates in letting them know, 'you've got to come to class, you've got to take this seriously,'" he said.

"Some of her friends from the program have learned this from her and realized, this is going to be someone like Jazmin on the other end of her care.

"They were a stellar group of students out in clinical, and I'm sure Jazmin was a huge influence on those students wanting to do the best they could."

With files from Information Morning Saint John