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Special glasses will allow Lugoff man to see family for first time

Posted: December 8, 2016 5:27 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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Jack Hair and his wife, Kim.

A highly advanced pair of glasses will allow a Lugoff man to see the faces of family and friends for the first time in his life – but they come with a $15,000 price tag.

Jack Hair is a youth pastor at Friendship Baptist Church in Lugoff, a track coach at Lugoff-Elgin High School and the chaplain for the varsity football team at L-EHS. Hair ministers to teens on a weekly basis; his connection with the teens in the community stands out and has impacted many to choose a Christian life, say those who know him.  

As a young child, Hair was diagnosed with a blinding disease called Juvenile Retinoschisis. According to blindness.org’s website, Juvenile retinoschisis is “an inherited disease diagnosed in childhood that causes progressive loss of central and peripheral vision due to degeneration of the retina.  It usually occurs almost exclusively in males.” 

Websites with information about juvenile retinoschisis say that individuals may have it from the time they are born and do not realize it. The symptoms are usually there, but individuals may not get diagnosed with it until their pubescent years. 

Hair and his mother found out early, when he was in kindergarten. 

“While I was in kindergarten getting my eyes checked, my mother and I were at Fort Jackson from eight that morning until eight that night because I could not differentiate the letters and numbers they gave me,” Hair said. 

One of the multiple doctors there that day told him and his mom that he believed Hair had juvenile retinoschisis. The doctor said he had read about it before, but never saw a case of it. 

Hair has said that ever since his youth, a regular pair of glasses does not help him at all. It is all because his retina, it is a layer at the back of the eye that allows humans to see, has holes that bleed and have cysts on them constantly. 

This disease has caused Hair to progressively become blind, but it never stopped his mission to serve and devote his life to what God called him to do, he said. He has never seen the faces of his very own children, only their figures, and eventually, he will not be able to see at all.  

For years he has had to find adaptive ways to live a normal life. When he was younger, teachers and doctors would tell his parents to let him attend a school for the deaf and blind. He would always say no, and his parents would not push it. 

“I did attend camps for the blind, but I was always the only one with juvenile retinoschisis,” Hair said. 

He uses a magnifying glass to read, he can discern which one of his students or family members is talking because of their voice and as he was being interviewed he admitted that he could only see the figure of the interviewer, not the details of her face. 

He has no idea what his wife, Kim Hair, or his three children look like, he said. He just knows their figures and their voices.

“Whenever my kids have a sporting event or competition, I am physically there, but I never truly see what they are doing,” Hair said.

A year ago, Hair took a trip to North Carolina to try a pair of electronic glasses made by eSight that supposedly would enable him to see. 

“I was on Google and researching new ways to live with retinoschisis,” Hair said. “For years doctors have told me they had heard of juvenile retinoschisis, but they never saw a case for it. There is no cure for it. When I was researching on anything new to help people with retinoschisis, eSight came up.” 

Hair contacted eSight because he was interested in trying it. They contacted him back and said all slots were taken to try the glasses. Not long after, a slot opened up and they told him to come to their new site in North Carolina. 

Warning: These glasses are not the typical pair of peepers that Santa Claus or you can use. They are these huge, black clunky glasses that resemble the new virtual reality glasses advertised on television. These glasses that will help Hair see, essentially have lenses that are two “tv screens” inside that magnify images as an individual scrolls the dial. 

“I am not going to lie to you, I did not think the glasses would work,” Hair said. 

Kim Hair chimed in:

“He had tried a trial pair of glasses a few years ago, and it did not work out. Lighting was an issue with the glasses, and it really did not help him.” 

  After years of seeing only figures, these glasses could allow him to see the face of his wife and children, photo albums of memories made, see his hometown, the green grass and the blue sky. 

But these glasses cost $15,000 and insurance will not cover the glasses.

What was it like when Hair tried the glasses?

“Like I said, I didn’t think it would work,” he said. “But there was a man there holding up huge white poster boards that had letters and numbers on it: equivalent to what someone would see when they are getting their eyes checked. I was naming off to the administrator what I saw. I choked up a bit because I could actually see. When I took the glasses off, and I could not see, that was when it hit me that for a brief moment I could see. I needed those glasses.” 

“We were worried about light being an issue,” Kim said. “We went outside and lighting did not have an effect on him or the glasses. He was actually able to see the license plates on the back of the cars without straining his eyes.”

Once he purchases the glasses, eSight will train him on how to use the glasses. The glasses are powered by rechargeable batteries.

Hair’s family and friends have raised $8,000 for the purchase of the glasses and are currently seeking donations. They say no donation is too big or small, and they believe it would be the ultimate Christmas present for him. They just started using a website to receive donations. The website is giving.esighteyewear.com, which is equivalent to GoFundMe, the difference being that 100 percent of funds actually go to purchasing the glasses. Once on the website, click the tab labeled ‘participants’ and scroll until you see ‘Jack Hair’. 

The youth at Friendship Baptist has helped host fundraisers for Jack-- car washes and bake sales. 

How did Jack Hair get involved in working with the youth?  

When Hair’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Hair asked God to heal her, and he promised to give his life to Christ. Hair’s mother was healed and he gave his life to Christ in February of 1997, he said. 

“I was twenty-seven and I was all in,” Hair said. “I was working with Juvenile Justice in Columbia and in 1999, I went to Columbia International University campus and asked what degree could I obtain that would allow me to work with the youth.” 

One of the advisors there asked him how interested he would be in being a youth pastor. That was right up his alley, he said, and he received his Bachelor’s in Bible and Youth Ministry. 

Waylen Rhodes, 14, and Tripp Cox, 18, attend Friendship Baptist’s youth group and they talked about Hair. 

“He is patient and understanding,” Rhodes said. “He’s taught me, no matter what, keep your cool. I want him to be able to enjoy the funny videos we watch on our phone. I hate when he has to strain his eyes.” 

Cox said, “He is always happy. I want him to be able to experience normal things like watching his kids play sports.” 

Hair says he wants people to realize if they can put their mind to it they can do it.

“It may not be practical to do some things, but we can do anything we put our mind to,” Hair said. 

Hair’s favorite scripture: 2 Corintihians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 


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