Stories of Survival

Stories of Survival
Dr. Phil checks in with the two families competing in the Ultimate Family Weight Loss Challenge.

"I felt that I had a picture-perfect life, great job, great family. There wasn't much more that I could ask for," says Jason, a former deputy sheriff. "All that has completely changed now."


He was finishing up his shift when he and his partners got a call that a woman and her live-in boyfriend had gotten into a fight. They arrived at the house and didn't see the man, so with t

heir guns drawn they went to the side of the house. "At this point I had a feeling that something was definitely not right," Jason recalls. "That's when I heard the gun shot. I felt the hit on the right side of my head. I never saw it coming at all ... I dropped straight to my knees. I put my hand up, I felt the blood. My partners thought that I was dead." The other deputy fired three shots and instantly killed the shooter.


Jason's wife, Andrea, met him at the hospital. "They wouldn't let me see him. I was pregnant at the time and they thought it would be too much for me," she explains.


Dan, Jason's dad, was shocked when he saw Jason. "It looked like a meat grinder had gone through his face," he says. "I couldn't not cry in front of him. Jason was looking at me for reassurance and I couldn't give it. I was afraid for him."

Jason spent 28 days in the hospital, and has had 16 reconstructive surgeries over the last two years. "There was basically a large hole on the right side of my mouth that was wide open for a year and two months," he explains, during which time he couldn't even speak. Because of the disfigurement, at times Jason is not able to eat without looking in a mirror. He has limited function in his shoulder and chronic back pain, and his career has suffered. "I was the sole provider for my family and now I can't support my family anymore," he says.


"Our lives have been turned upside down," Andrea explains. "I don't have the option to work. I've got to take care of Jason, and

I've got two kids to take care of. The financial hardships do put a strain on our marriage."


It has also been difficult dealing with the public's reaction to Jason. "I've seen him with the saddest look in his eyes because adults won't get in the elevator with him or kids looked at him and cried," Andrea says.


"Jason is not the man he used to be," Dan states. "My biggest fear for Jason is that he'll fall into depression."


Jason turns to Dr. Phil for help. "I've lost everything that my life was before ... At this point, I really feel just painted into a corner. I just don't know don't know what direction I'll go."

"Tell me why you wanted to be here today," Dr. Phil says to Jason.


"I want to have my life back," Jason says, noting that professionals he has talked to in the past simply offer to write him a

prescription.


"What do you think your biggest challenge, your biggest obstacle is that you have to overcome at this point?" Dr. Phil asks.


"My rational mind tells me that I have an absolutely wonderful life, a wonderful family, nothing is going to happen as far as that's concerned. We love each other immensely. But you still have that irrational side — irrational fears in the back of your head going, 'I'm not the same man. I look differently.' She could look at someone else and say, 'I could have a normal life with someone else.'"


"I'm never going to leave you," Andrea assures him.

"You feel like you've lost him in many respects?" Dr. Phil asks Andrea.


Andrea says yes. "We're not as close as we used to be. We used to do a lot of things together; we don't do them anymore," she explains. "We don't have that romance like we used to. It's very lonely. We don't communicate like we used to and there are days

when I want to be all by myself and there are days when I feel like I'm all by myself." She also fights her own anger. "I see my husband every day in the condition that he's in," Andrea says. "I've seen his face change so much and I get angry that this even happened. That somebody could do this to somebody."


Dr. Phil tells Jason, "As I sit here with you now, I have a lot of emotions, and pity and feeling sorry for you is just not on the list. Frankly, it's very humbling to sit here with you. I have a great deal of admiration for you that you have kept putting one foot in front of the other. You have hung in there with your wife and your kids, and you're here today saying, 'I want some help. I need some tools. I need to do something.'"


Jason responds, "It would have been easy for me to roll over and die that night, but I can't do that."

Dr. Phil asks Jason's father, Dan, for his thoughts.


"Jason had his whole future ahead of him," Dan says. "It just breaks my heart. I cry all the time. I just want the best for him. I just want him to be able to get his life back together so he could move forward. You have to accept what's happened. He has to do that, but he has to rebuild and get the tools to do it."


Dr. Phil addresses Jason. "The impact is far reaching. Your income has dropped 75 percent. People stare at

you. You feel a sense of betrayal from the department where you worked because they really haven't been hugely forthcoming in their support," he points out.


"The betrayal is really deep," Jason confirms. "We see people that I worked with and people that I knew while I was working at the sheriff's office. They will literally drive past our house and they won't even look over at us. That hurts, it really does."

"I want you to describe to me the man that walked up that sidewalk to that door that night," Dr. Phil says to Jason.


"I was a loving family man. That's all I cared about. My number one priority was my family. My number two priority was my community, and working for the sheriff's office. I've always had a very, very deep sense of civic responsibility. And beyond my family, that was the next thing t

hat really gave me fulfillment," Jason says. "I had all the confidence in the world. We weren't rich people by any standard, but rich in spirit."


"You were loving and caring before this happened. Are you loving and caring now?" Dr. Phil asks.


Jason says that he is definitely still loving and caring, but he has a shorter temper. "I don't have the same level of patience," he admits. "I had a phenomenal fuse prior to this ... Now I get upset at the drop of a hat, over little things."


"I think that people understand you might be a little irritable," Dr. Phil tells Jason. "But you have to be willing to acknowledge and embrace what you still have. The man that walked up that sidewalk is the same man that's sitting here right now today. That's apparent to me. That doesn't mean that your coping energies, your skills, your abilities haven't been drained."


"I've been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders for the last two years," Jason agrees.

"Inside you have all this anger, which is more than understandable, probably justifiable — but it's highly toxic," Dr. Phil tells Jason. "The thing that worries me the most is if you lose hope ... You can get out. I want you to give yourself credit for doing an amazing job over the last year and a half to get yourself where you are right now ... It's OK to be frustrated that you're not where you want to be. It's OK to be frustrated

that you don't have everything that you used to have. I want you to be frustrated about that. Pain is a good motivator in many respects, because if it's hurting where you are, it motivates you to move to some other place."


Dr. Phil continues, "You need help vocationally, psychologically, physically. You can't do this by yourself and you don't have to do this by yourself. You've got your family that's behind you. Your wife that's behind you ... And you've got to give yourself credit for those things and then you've got to do some very specific, focused things."


Dr. Phil reiterates his advice. Jason must focus on the fact that he is the same man who walked up that sidewalk before getting shot. He has done "a pretty damn good job to get this far in that amount of time." He tells Jason, "What I want you to do is stop complaining and start claiming what you want in this life because it is a choice." Jason also needs to deal with his anger. Dr. Phil will arrange therapy for Jason and Andrea, so they can learn to get rid of the anger and move toward productive goals. They agree to partake.

Dr. Phil tells Jason that he has a few surprises for him. Dr. Randal Hayworth, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon has agreed to perform the rest of Jason's surgeries, and Dr. Sherri Worth, a cosmetic dentist, will donate the cosmetic and reconstructive dental work for

Jason. Jason is very appreciative of these doctors.


Dr. Phil tells Jason and Andrea, "To help you get to the doctor's offices, Southwest Airlines has agreed to take care of your travel and the Renaissance Hotel will be your place to stay."


Dr. Phil has more surprises for Jason. Brian Reed and Steve Carpowich from the credit card company, Capital One, want to help Jason and his family get back on track. They have offered to give them a total of $50,000 — $20,000 from Capital One Auto Finance to purchase a new car, $20,000 from Capital One Home Loan for a down payment on a new house and Capital One Savings has deposited $10,000 into a Capital One high-yield savings account.


"So what do you think about my plan? I told you I had a plan!" Dr. Phil says.


"I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. Thank you," Jason replies. "It's great! I love it!"