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It was late January of 2011 when i woke up in the early hours of the morning. I had a strong urge to urinate, I groggily got out of bed, tried to quietly navigate my way to the bathroom without waking my wife, and use the facilities. Only now, no matter how much I tried, and no matter how much pain my bladder was in, I could not urinate.
An immediate blanket of fear and anxiety washed over me, as I knew just enough to be dangerous. Yes, it was possible for a bladder to burst internally.
I was 32 years old, had been married for 8 years, with a 2-year-old and brand new infant at home. I had been a lawyer for 8 years and healthy. My family relied exclusively on me to provide for their financial wellbeing.
I put on a pair of jeans and sweatshirt, grabbed my keys and hurriedly – but quietly – ran out of my apartment to my car in the parking lot below.
I drove fast to the closest emergency room. My mid-section hurt too much to park. I pulled up to the valet, asked him to please park my car. He could see i was in pain, he summoned a wheelchair and I was brought into the admissions office.
I explained that I could not urinate, was in excruciating pain and had no explanation how or why this occurred.
Have you been drinking, they asked? No. Have you been in a recent accident? No. Do you have any medical history we need to know about? No.
I was taken back – briefly spoke to an ER doctor who clearly could see i was in tremendous pain. He had a female nurse come back with a catheter and I went through the incredible uncomfortable experience of having to expose myself and be catheterized. The pain relief was so enormous I wanted to cry, but I held it together. I also wanted out of there.
I was discharged and advised to see my primary care physician.
No less than 4 hours later, at 5:30AM, I returned to the same emergency room, in the same tremendous amount of pain, still unable to relieve myself. This time the doctor catheterized me and sent me home with a permanent catheter and bag. Still no diagnosis.
Over the next 48 hours I would quickly start to deteriorate. My bladder never returned to normal. I started to experience tremendous needle-like pain in both legs, and I felt as though I was losing my balance and feeling. My hands legs felt like they were becoming numb.
My wife was very concerned, and on Super Bowl Sunday – with me having been so ill I could not get off the couch for 24 hours, she called my dad and advised that he needed to come out immediately.
He hopped a plane from 4 states away and would arrive that evening. I had lost 15 pounds, was unable to use the restroom and in a fetal position on the couch.
He scooped me up and took me to an emergency room – this time a different one.
I would be admitted to the hospital, horribly sick, with my dad by my side, and I would spiral quickly even further downhill. I started having headaches, became nauseous, and ultimately withing 8 hours – lost all feeling below my chest. I could not feel a thing, not my legs, not my toes, not my mid-section.
Although the next 24 hours I hardly remember I was so sick, my father shares that a young intern at the hospital had suggested they call the head of rheumatology in to examine me as everyone to that point – from neurology to urology had been baffled by my presentation. That night around 9 PM the head of the rheumatology department arrived, I vaguely remember him helping me sit up in bed, I remember throwing up and feeling horrible, he helped me lie back down, and he was gone.
I would find out days later that he diagnosed me with a rare condition known as transverse myelitis – an auto immune disorder where your white blood cells literally start attacking your body. I was only the 4th case he had ever seen in 30 years of practicing medicine. He and my Dad, decided my only chance for survival was an aggressive treatment plan that would include heavy dose steroids and the controversial chemotherapy drug Cytoxan.
I survived the night, though my dad has shared with me that he didn’t think I would.
The next morning I felt so much better, I could talk, engage with the doctors and nurses and even eat a little bit. But, I still had no feeling below my chest.
I remember the neurologist coming in every day and poking my legs, arms and toes with needles for any sign of feeling. On one occasion I thought I felt something poke my toe – he immediately told me not to “make it up!” I became angry- a common cover up emotion – but what I felt deeply was despair. I wanted to feel something, but I couldn’t.
Thereafter, night after night I would have anxiety lying in bed going through a list of horrible things in my mind. I would constantly rotate myself in bed (I had use of only my arms) for fear of getting a bed sore. I would constantly look down at my legs, and wonder to myself, whose legs are those? My legs walk, they jump, they run…I don’t know these legs. I would constantly check to see if I was wearing any underwear…even though I just checked two minutes ago. I couldn’t feel the underwear on, I could only feel that it was there with my hand.
I began to worry about being a burden on my family, even on the nurses who were caring for me. One night, I wanted to see if I could use the facilities on my own, I crawled out of the gurney with only my arm strength, literally dragging the heavy weight of my body behind me. Somehow, over many many minutes, I managed…but I was exhausted. I wasn’t able to get back to my bed, and had to wait for a nurse to arrive and help me back into bed.
I finally came to a point where I had to make a choice, and that choice was whether I would let my thoughts and spirits be dominated by negative thoughts or with hope.
My family rallied around me, but in some cases that made it even harder. Seeing them every day was motivation, but also underscored the reliance my immediate family had on me.
I started looking at the calendar, the 1st was fast approaching and rent was due. We could cover it, but not indefinitely. How was I going to pay rent every month in this condition? How would I ever be able to practice law again? Who’s going to hire someone in a wheelchair with only the use of their arms? I thought about Christopher Reeves and how he, with the best medical care one could afford, still succumbed to his injury some years after being injured.
The fear was tremendous and if I wasn’t’ careful it became consuming.
Over time I began to regain feeling in my chest, then my hips, and very slowly my toes. I would be transferred to a rehabilitation unit where multiple daily therapy sessions empowered me to work hard. Each day, something small, be it a family member, a comment, a small movement of my toe began to give me hope. My hope slowly became restored.
With God’s grace, and a number of people who provided me hope throughout that very difficult time, including each one of my family members, I have fully recovered.
My experience has made me so incredibly empathetic with those, like me on that gurney, who suffer tremendous insults – through no fault of their own – to their body or mind, and thereafter undergo each and every horrible thought and feeling that naturally flows from tragic events. I was so very fortunate to have so many remarkable people around me who restored my hope – even at the worst of times. I want to contribute to the restoration of hope for my clients and their families, and I want them to know – I understand. I have been there. I have suffered in that same place, and together, I do believe we can restore hope for tomorrow. That is the purpose of my firm, my practice and my commitment to each and every one of the clients – and their families – that I serve.
I began my legal career in 2002 with a national multi-district litigation law firm in Newport Beach, California. There I worked on a variety of high-profile, complex-litigation projects including pharmaceutical and medical-device litigation across the country.
From 2008 through 2011, I was selected to be a member of the expert committee and deposition teams in the federal In Re Gadolinium MDL venued in Cleveland, Ohio against GE Healthcare, Bayer Pharmaceuticals and Mallinckrodt. In 2009, I was selected to chair the expert committee in the coordinated California-state gadolinium cases venued in San Francisco.
Less than nine months after laying motionless on a hospital gurney in February 2011 I was lead counsel against Baxter Pharmaceuticals regarding a tainted heparin case in Nebraska in October 2011. Thereafter I founded the Ochs Law Firm in 2012 after my eye-opening and life-changing experience the year before.
I have been lead trial counsel in pharmaceutical, medical and class action cases across the country including lead counsel in the country’s largest restaurant food-poisoning outbreak, representing US soldiers against Halliburton for toxic burn pit lung disease and we are currently spear-hearing the Rocky Mountain Opiate Litigation representing counties in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming against all nine of the major opiate manufacturers.
My favorite things to do include spending time with my wife and two sons, biking, skiing and fly-fishing.
Jason has been honored as a “Super Star Rising Lawyer” by Los Angeles and Orange Coast magazine since 2012
Recent Board Appointments
- Former Board Member of the Non-Profit Mercer Family Resource Center. Casper, Wyoming. 2015-2017
- Board Member of the Jackson Hole Classical Academy. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 2018-present
- Former Board Member of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, 2012-2016.
- American Association of Justice, Proving Your Failure to Warn Claim Through Twitter. AAJ Annual Convention, New York City, July 2011.
- American Association of Justice, Analyzing the NSF Injury Through Hi-Definition Video. In RE Gadolinium Litigation. AAJ Annual Convention, Philadelphia, July 2009.
- American Association of Justice, State Court and Federal Court Coordination. In RE Gadolinium Litigation. AAJ Annual Convention, New Orleans, February 2009.
- LexusNexus Pharmaceutical Litigation Conference, Advanced Medical Optics: Acanthamoeba Keratitis and the Contact Lens. June 2008.
- WTLA CLE Seminar, Lifting the Cosby Confidentiality. August 5, 2015.
- Wyoming County Attorney Annual Convention, The Opioid Impact Both Nationally and Locally. September 27, 2017.
- WTLA CLE Seminar, The Opioid Epidemic and Public Health Crisis. November 1, 2017.
- WY Drug Abuse Seminar, The Opioid Epidemic. May 10, 2018.
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Courtroom Practice,The Wyoming State Bar Convention. September 19, 2018.
- Southern Methodist University. Bachelors Degree. Graduated Cum Laude, May 2001
- Chapman Law School. Juris Doctorate. May 2004. – Trial Advocacy Finalist 2003.