We lost a member of our family last week when longtime Town-Crier employee Jason Budjinski lost his battle with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). He touched many in the western communities through his writing and his music.
Jason joined the Town-Crier as a reporter in 2001, not long after he graduated from Florida Atlantic University. He quickly showed himself to be an adept writer, offering readers insightful coverage of Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage. Later, he left to write for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, working his way to music editor there, before returning to the Town-Crier in a key editorial role. Until his illness forced him to cut back his hours, he managed the Town-Crier’s always-active e-mail system, organized photographers and composed pages. He also did writing and editing work for Wellington The Magazine and Okeechobee The Magazine. In between, he was an amazing musician and an avid skateboarder.
Born in West Palm Beach and raised in The Acreage and Wellington, Jason was hit with the devastating diagnosis of PSC as a young man. He fought that heartbreaking disease, and later Crohn’s disease, for nearly two decades before losing his battle on June 16.
Jason’s strong personality outweighed the negatives of his health situation daily. He was respected by community leaders and co-workers for his unique abilities and positive attitude. He was a vocal proponent of the lifesaving abilities of organ donation — which, sadly, he was unable to take advantage of — and also of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in particular its impact on young adults, and demonstrated its impact using his own life as a blueprint.
In a commentary he wrote just over a year ago for another publication, he described himself as having once been “a member of Generation Invincible, an overly confident 20-something who thought health insurance was something for ‘old people.’ I ate healthful foods and exercised regularly. Having lived with my parents for most of my college years, I worked part time, saved money and graduated without going into debt. I was 22, and ready to leave the nest and take on the world.”
It was under his mother’s insurance plan that both diseases were discovered. And suddenly, Jason had another mission: healthcare activist. “Before the ACA went into full effect, insurance companies could have denied me coverage — or charged me rates I could never afford — because I have pre-existing conditions, the most serious being PSC, which put me on the liver transplant list,” Jason wrote. “Without this new law, I’d have to get covered under COBRA, which costs a lot more and is only temporary.”
While the ACA is far from perfect, it’s better than what was there before, he explained.
“I wish everyone complaining about having to purchase insurance or pay a penalty could see it from where I’m sitting,” Budjinski continued. “Without insurance, the costs of all I’ve done to stay on the transplant list would be in the six figures. So pardon me if I get angry every time I hear some Republican congressman talk about repealing the ACA and discouraging young people from enrolling. Listen up, kids: I’ve been in your shoes. You are playing Russian roulette with your health. You may be fine now, but that can change in an instant. Trust me, having physical ailments to contend with is plenty; you don’t need the added stress of figuring out how to pay for treatment.”
Jason hated funerals. Instead, a “celebration of life” will be held in his honor on Saturday, June 27 at 2 p.m. in the center court of the original Wellington Mall, located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd. in Wellington. Tributes will be made. Tears will flow. Memories will be recalled. Laughs and stories will be shared. And hopefully the world — whether Generation Invincible or not — will keep Jason’s life music playing long after the celebration has ended.
If you’re looking to do something in his honor, the Budjinski family requests donations in Jason’s name to PSC Partners Seeking a Cure. Donations can be sent via mail to 5237 S. Kenton Way, Englewood, CO 80111 or made online at http://bit.ly/1SUA0S7. To learn more, visit www.pscpartners.org.
Jason Budjinski was a writer, a musician, a son, a brother and a friend. He will be missed by all of us here at the Town-Crier, and many others throughout the western communities and beyond.