Posted on: April 29, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Jack Zampillo, Opinion Editor & JRN 111 Student

He’s a math professor. A husband. A father. And most importantly, Jason King is a survivor.

We normally spend the ages of 19 to 22 finding our place in the world—pursuing our dreams and having fun. But the beginning of Jason King’s college career was anything but enjoyable.

“When I was 19, my body started sending me signals that something was wrong,” King recalled. At the time, he was attending Illinois State University.

He began experiencing gastrointestinal issues, became very ill, and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue and extreme weight loss.

The seriousness of the disease can vary person to person, but King described his case as “one of the really bad ones.”

“I was basically bedridden for two years, and I had to completely drop out of school,” King said. “There came a point where I didn’t eat for an entire week.”

His condition worsened, and King returned to the doctor to find free air in his diaphragm, meaning there were lacerations on his intestines. His body went into septic shock and he fell into a coma.

When King woke up two months later, his body had forgotten how to perform tasks that our bodies learn instinctually as children.

I was basically bedridden for two years, and I had to completely drop out of school. There came a point where I didn’t eat for an entire week.”

Jason King, Math Professor

“When I came out of the hospital, I had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again,” King said. “I was so skinny from the weight loss that my body would just shake all the time.”

King endured long, hard days of physical therapy following the coma and was able to begin walking after about a month of intensive care.

“My parents would hold my throat to help me sound things out, and I had to use ginormous utensils and special plates until my body was able to control itself again.”

The recovery process was tedious, but made in full, and King enrolled at Moraine Valley to resume pursuing his academic goals.

He was under strict regulations, having been allowed off of “Wound-Vac” for just an hour at a time. King praises Moraine Valley for accommodating him during one of the hardest times of his life.

“My teachers really helped me through that time,” King said with a smile. “I think if one teacher had put roadblocks in front of me, I would have given up. I still believe to this day that Moraine has the best teachers around.”

King took advantage of his time in the valley, becoming the editor-in-chief of Moraine Valley’s student newspaper, The Glacier.

“It was a great way for me to keep my mind off of things,” King said.

At the time, King was The Glacier’s main reporter, and he fell into an interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney. King remembers the experience with recognition of its significance.

As editor-in-chief of The Glacier when he was a student at Moraine Valley, Jason King had the opportunity to interview then-Secretary of State Dick Cheney, who soon became vice president.

“I was basically told that Dick Cheney was coming and that I should interview him,” he said. “I was checked, searched…It was an intense experience.

“I asked him questions pertaining to current world issues, and he was impressed with the complexity of the interview I conducted,” King said. “He was very professional and seemed like a pleasant guy.”

At the hands of the coma, King is forced to wear a colostomy bag daily. Despite this obstacle, he has gone on to achieve some great things and experience a unique part of the world.

King eventually went back to Illinois State University to earn his bachelor’s. He earned his master’s degree from Depaul University, and at 27 years old, he spent a few months living in Vladimir, Russia. He was sent there to participate in a Fulbright Hays Program, which is centered around developing plans for American teachers who wanted to teach the Russian language in the States.

I think if one teacher had put roadblocks in front of me, I would have given up. I still believe to this day that Moraine has the best teachers around.”

Jason King, Math Professor

“I learned a bit, explored a bit and taught a bit,” King said. He found himself recalling the smaller things about the experience. “I’d have people yelling ‘GET OUT OF HERE TOURIST.’ I was visiting a famous tomb, and an officer thought I had a bomb when I was reaching into my pocket.

“Sometimes the power would be out for days. We’d have no hot water to shower with. It was truly a crazy experience.”

King has been in a coma, interviewed Dick Cheney, and spent the 4th of July in Russia crammed inside a basement. Despite the pain and distress he experienced at such a young age, King never allowed his setbacks to define him.

Since 2005, he has been teaching math and geography full time at Moraine Valley, the school that helped him get back on his feet. He is married with two children.

After everything he has been through, he is in a position to understand the stresses his students may be facing as they survive college during a pandemic. He strives to implement compassion and fairness into his teaching.

“Many teachers don’t understand the impact they have on their students,” King said. “I try to be lenient, especially during these times, because everybody has something going on that nobody knows about.”