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Head-on Collision with Wrong-Way Driver Leaves Trooper Fighting for His Life

Circleville, Ohio

DISPATCH: “Delaware 59 to units, a possible O.V.I. 71 at the 154 North.”

TROOPER PHILLIPS: “1559 en route.”

Ohio State trooper Jason Phillips was still a rookie when he responded to the call--’A suspected impaired driver’, headed south in the northbound lane.

DISPATCH: “State Highway Patrol...”

CALLER: “The state trooper’s car is on fire and... I think he might burn alive.”

The wrong-way driver had collided head-on with the young trooper leaving Jason unconscious and trapped inside. A few cars behind was former Army medic, Sergeant First Class, Joe Yeichner.

“Once I pushed the window open, within 30 seconds after getting Jason out, the driver’s seat was in flames,” says Joe.

Joe stabilized Jason’s neck for 15 minutes until EMS and other troopers arrived. 

“Jason was bleeding from his right arm, his shoulder, but his right leg was a mess,” says Joe. “‘Buddy, you’re going to be all right. There’re other troopers here. Relax, you’re okay.’”

Jason was Life Flighted to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Two hours later, two state troopers visited Jason’s parents to give them the news.

“Mind if we talk to you inside?” Jason Senior recounts quoting the trooper. “I looked at them and said, ‘I don’t know if I want you to.’” Jason Sr. continued “So, was it fatal?” “No. Critical,” responded the trooper.

“Lord, you're going to have to give me peace in this cause I don’t understand all this,” says Jason’s mother, Tina. “How does this bring You glory in this?”

By then Jason was comatose and intubated—the first 72 hours were critical.

Dr. Shahid Nimjee, Associate Professor of Neurology at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center was one of the first to attend Jason...“Burns to the right side of his head and neck, he had multiple injuries to his arms and legs. He had some internal bleeding, he also had a traumatic brain injury,” says Dr. Nimjee. “The most unknown parameter in all of this is how he will recover with respect to his brain injury. His mortality was very high.”

Meanwhile the hospital waiting room was filling up with fellow troopers and friends offering support and prayer. It would be a long, hard fight, and they needed a miracle.

“God, I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” says Tina. “I don’t know what is going on, but I need your help.”

Just 7 months prior, Jason had graduated from the Patrol Academy with hopes of making a difference. Now he was lying unresponsive in the Surgery Intensive Care Unit.

“God, either all your word in true or it’s all a lie,” Jason, Sr. admitted. “If one thing fails, it all fails. I choose to trust you. If you take him, I’ll still praise you.”

Jason pulled through the first 72 hours, yet even with the expert care, he still needed a miracle. The people offering prayers through social media reached the hundreds of thousands.

Tina said, “Was just like God would come and lift me up and I’d tell him, ‘Wow, you know what? I could feel it.’ And God was letting me know, ‘It’s going to be okay.’”

“Don’t give up on me,” declared Jason Sr., “Don’t you dare stop fighting. Fight. And God is here with you.”

After six days in the hospital, Jason opened his eyes. Although Minimally Conscious with the effects of his brain injury unknown, it was the first sign of hope.

“And I said, ‘Look, from what I see right now, I don’t think we should give up,” said Dr. Nimjee. “We’re going to do everything we can and that you should have faith in the fact that we think there’s a chance.”

“I was thankful that God allowed me to see his beautiful eyes again,” says Tina.

Nearly three weeks later, Jason was moved to OSU’s Rehab facility. The staff would evaluate Jason’s cognition through a 23 point “emergence test”. He had to pass all 23 to be declared fully conscious or “emerged”.

Tina remembers the doctor’s words, “They said maybe six months he might wake up, maybe a year, maybe never. Oh, if he does, he’ll never be normal again.’ And it’s like, ‘No, you don’t understand God.’”

One day while asking his son specific questions, Jason Sr. knew something was different.

“I pointed to everybody in the room, I said, ‘He’s-he’s emerged. He’s awake,’” says Jason, Sr. “Well, how do you know?’ ‘Because I know my son, that’s how I know.’”

On August 9th, Jason was officially declared ‘emerged.’ Then on August 27th, only two months after the crash, he went home. Jason continues to improve daily and lives life today with joy and gratitude.

[Video of Jason walking into the Patrol Headquarters in October 2019] “It feels so good, to walk through that door,” says Jason.

“It’s not even two years ago that he was near death,” declared Dr. Nimjee. “I describe that kind of resilience, that kind of recovery with two simple words: Gratitude and humility.”

And although Jason hasn’t returned to the patrol, he and his family take comfort in knowing that through Christ, all things are possible.

“I know where my help comes from,” says Jason. “It comes from God, and still does. I know there’s others out there that feel that there’s no hope. But then they see my story; they hope.”

Tina boldly claimed, “I have great joy - because I know God has so much more for him.”

“Prayer is where we drew our strength. Prayer is where we put our faith,” says Jason, Sr. “Everything they said he might lose, he still has. Prayer is what changed things.”

Jason ending saying, “It’s not over until God says that it is.”

“Our deep gratitude and respect to all involved and specifically the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Medical Staff and Care Team at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Thank you for your dedication and service to this story, the Phillips family and to your communities.”       

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