Jason Gregg is a husband. He′s a dad. He is a 2002 graduate of Geneva College′s master′s in counseling program, and now works as a middle school counselor. He is also the recipient of a double-lung transplant-an experience that has dramatically shaped his faith and his calling in life.
Jason grew up with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic genetic disease that gets worse over time. He felt pretty normal throughout his elementary and middle school years, but as he got into high school and college, things slowly started going wrong.
"It was just a gradual decline until my mid- to late-twenties when it really bottomed out for me," he says.
During the five years prior to his transplant, Jason was operating with less than 20 percent lung function.
"I couldn't go up a flight of stairs; I couldn't eat a lot; I couldn't bend over and tie my shoes without getting out of breath. Everything was a conscious effort to breathe," he says. "For the last 18 months before the surgery, I had to be on oxygen all the time."
Jason was accepted onto the transplant list in September 2008, moved to Pittsburgh in November and six weeks later he was rushed into surgery. As he was being wheeled into the operating room, his wife, Natalie, asked him what was on his mind.
"I'm just really hoping that God won't forsake me in this," he answered.
But through numerous complications and the days and weeks of intense pain that followed, Jason did feel like God had forsaken him. He spent 60 days in the hospital, had 10 surgeries and dropped 35 pounds.
"I just felt like everything I prayed for I got the opposite. There were times we would go down to the chapel in the hospital and I would just bawl, because I was so tired of the pain," he says. "I was pretty much just cussing God out because I didn't feel like He was around me."
Then, when Jason was at his lowest point, his pastor came to visit him in the hospital. He asked Jason how he was doing.
"I'm not good. I'm done with God. I'm done praying-I can't do it anymore."
"Then don't," his pastor replied. "We've got you covered."
In that moment, the guilt that had been eating at Jason's heart was lifted. God's love-the love that he hadn't been able to feel in the midst of his pain-suddenly enfolded him. Through the prayers and support of family and friends, God carried Jason through the storm.
God also gave Jason a new passion for counseling and reaching out to others. As he started down the long road to recovery, Jason decided to write a book to share his experiences and encourage other people struggling with disabilities or chronic illness. He had done a lot of focus work and research in these areas when he was in the counseling program at Geneva, especially regarding the concept of hope and its role faith and healing.
"I titled my book The Soul-dier: Battling the Unseen because they are in battle every day," he says. "Not just their bodies, but their spirits."
Over a year after his surgery, Jason is now the husband and father he always wanted to be. He′s going on 20-mile bike rides, throwing the football with his daughter, Kyleigh, playing competitive soccer, mowing the grass-and he can't get enough of it. He still keeps in touch with the faculty and staff in the counseling program and comes back to campus to speak to classes and interns.
Jason also does a lot of speaking to raise awareness for organ donation. Trained with Transplant Speakers International, as well as South Carolina′s Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), he is committed to educating people on how this gift can save and transform lives.
"My belief is that we as Christians know that life comes after death, so we can also provide life through death as organ donors," he says. "My donor′s name is Roy. I am daily humbled and have this immense gratitude toward him and his family for their willingness to donate through a crisis. They made the ultimate sacrifice."
Read more about Jason′s story and check out his book at www.thesouldier.com.
April is national Donate Life month. For more information about organ donation and how you can help, visit www.donatelife.net.