Jay has always been drawn to organizations that challenged him and gave him a sense of comradery. As a teenager, karate gave him a sense of belonging and was a constant in his life—first as a world-level competitor and later as an international referee for karate. In the Navy, he became an officer and a Judge Advocate General (JAG). Later, as a professional firefighter in Seattle, he rose to the rank of lieutenant.
But all those achievements—and the sense of belonging that went with them—were threatened by something that started small: an ache in Jay’s big toe. When it spread to the toes of his other foot and his fingers, he worked with multiple doctors and tried different techniques to reduce the swelling and pain in his joints. Jay eventually found a rheumatologist who gave him a name for what he was experiencing: rheumatoid arthritis.
As Jay experienced the ups and downs of living with RA, he wanted to join a team that understood what he was going through. That’s when he discovered the Patient Ambassador program at Snow. Becoming an Ambassador significantly changed Jay’s journey. While he had struggled in the past to explain what he was going through, the Ambassador program helped him put words to his experiences and challenges. This helped him express what he was going through not just to others, but also to himself. And listening to other Ambassadors’ stories helped him realize he was not alone. Knowing that they were not professional speakers and that some were sharing personal moments for the first time with a group of strangers—Jay couldn’t help but be moved. Their strength and courage inspired Jay to push through to be positive and to help others.
Today, Jay is doing great. With the right treatments and a great medical team, his RA is under as much control as it has ever been. He has retired from the fire department, moved to Colorado, married his wonderful wife, Jem, and finished a graduate degree in history. He volunteers with the U.S. Olympic Karate Team, traveling around the world and officiating for the Olympic program, and also organizes grassroots, community-based programs to develop opportunities for young athletes.