By GWEN SISSON
He was driving home from church when something flew into his eye. When Jason Minor closed and rubbed his eye, he realized he could not see.
He almost had a wreck.
Nervous and a little scared, Minor drove home. He and his wife went to the eye clinic at Walmart to get a quick check up. They suggested Dr. James Brown who told the Minors that something was very wrong. He sent him immediately to a specialist. The doctors said he was blind in one eye, but did not notice because the other eye was overcompensating.
He knew he had been a little more clumsy. He had driven into a few small things while backing up.
Minor was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. It affects up to 80 percent of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. According to the American Optometric Association, diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. They leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. The condition usually affects both eyes.
His first eye surgery was September 19, 2007. He would have several more over the next few years.
As a child, he had been told he had Type I juvenile diabetes. The doctor who had originally diagnosed the diabetes passed away, but the insulin was making him sick. A new doctor took him off insulin and he thought he was functioning fine.
Ten years later, he was told that his diabetes could not have been Type I, because he would be dead within 10 days of not receiving insulin. Minor had been off 10 years when he realized he had lost sight in one eye.
One night in December 2007, he came home from work and took a nap, which was unusual, according to his wife, Kaile. She and their daughters were attending an event, and when they returned, he was still sleeping, but was having trouble breathing.
“He sounded like a bear,” Kaile said. She woke him up and took him to the hospital.
The blindness in the first eye spurred Minor to get healthy. He was working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program at Mississippi State University, eating protein and working out. He was getting bigger, but they thought he was building muscle mass.
He had always weighed between 235-250 pounds. When he stepped on the scales during the emergency room visit, he weighed 331 pounds.
“That was not right,” Kaile said. “We knew something was terribly wrong.”
Minor was retaining fluid. Tests showed his kidney function was down dramatically, from a test six months earlier.
On January 5, 2008, he became blind in the other eye. More surgeries followed.
He began dialysis in March 2008 and was placed on the transplant list.
Minor was up for re-evaluation on Feb. 29, 2011. Kaile was about to undergo training for operating an in-home dialysis machine, as they continued to wait for a kidney.
The faith of children
On February 26, Minor was leading worship at the Saturday evening services at New Horizon Church. The pastor asked Minor to come back where the children were meeting. Earlier, he asked for prayer in relation to dialysis and the upcoming re-evaluation.
The children at the church wanted to pray for “Mr. Jason.” One little boy told him “Mr. Jason, you don’t need to fear, Jesus is here.” The children were friends of his daughters. They started praying, “God’s gonna fix everything...God, please heal Mr. Jason and do it today.”
“When you get into agreement and really mean it, pure prayers have so much authority,” Minor said. “They were making demands on God and saying stuff I probably wouldn’t say.”
Minor was moved by the children praying for him.
After church, and a quick trip to Walmart, the family was just settling into bed when the cell phone rang. It was 1:13 a.m. and a back up kidney was being flown in for surgery in Jackson. They were on standby. Thirty minutes later, they got a phone call asking them to come to Jackson for surgery.
Mom was called to be at home with the girls, Raven Brealle, Kailynn Samone and Kariah Breland.
Family friend, Rev. Gregory Jones of Ebenezer Baptist Church, had agreed to drive them to Jackson for the transplant surgery.
They arrived in Jackson about 4 a.m. They found out it was a new kidney and pancreas, which would be a big help for the diabetes. Kaile said they would take whatever God sent their way.
They thought they were preparing for surgery at 6 a.m. but he wasn’t wheeled in for surgery until 3 p.m. Minor was in recovery for an hour and returned to a room at midnight. Kaile had been up for 49 hours.
The hospital staff was amazed. The kidney began working immediately as they inserted 800 cc of fluid.
“They said it was a perfect match,” Kaile said. “They said they had rarely seen anything work like that.”
By 6 a.m., Minor was up and walking around his room, with nursing staff assistance.
Hope for tomorrow
The Minors hope the new kidney will supply fresh clean blood to the eyes. Doctors have said the first eye is too far gone, but the family is hoping new research in growing retinas will help as time goes along.
In the meantime, Jason Minor works as a part-time worship pastor at Life Church and Kaile works as the office manager for Helping Hands.
“(He is) a great man and his wife is always faithful to support him in every way,” said John Daniels, pastor of Life Church. “Her love and devotion to him are exceptional! She never wavers in her support of her husband!”
Daniels said after arriving in Starkville, God allowed him to meet Jason Minor at a pastors’ prayer meeting. He found out that Minor and his wife were musically gifted.
“We shared a similar vision of creating a church in this city that was ethnically diverse, real, relevant and relational,” Daniels said. “We also shared a love for a variety of worship styles. Jason and Kaile began to feel a calling to team up with us and provide the music leadership for this new church we were starting —Life Church. They have many skills and giftings and are a huge part of what is doing through Life Church!”
Daniels said Life Church is one of the most diverse churches in the area and people often comment how nice the people are. The Church has grown and averaged 65 in attendance in 2010. He said Jason Minor has played an important part in that growth and in creating an environment at Life Church that shows love to all people.
“His faithful service has provided a consistent quality of worship combined with a genuine heart-felt example,” Daniels said. “No matter how he was feeling, Jason has brought the sincere heart of a worshiper along with a good sense of humor to every service.”
Minor is a board member for the Helping Hands Ministry. While recovering, he is working to start his own media company to bring faith-based entertainment alternatives to the Starkville-Oktibbeha County area.
“Jason is truly an inspiration to me and has been for the decades that I have known him,” said Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman. “He lives by his faith. For that reason, he is completely at peace with any obstacle life puts in his way. The joy Jason leaves in his wake is a blessing to all that cross his path.”