Imagine going to a doctor’s visit for something one thinks is a small matter. Now imagine awakening every morning since that initial visit to a fight to stay alive.

Living his life this way is former sheriff’s deputy Justin Mitchell of Avalon.

A little less than three years ago, Mitchell took a leave from work to undergo a simple surgery to repair a small hiatal hernia. During the procedure, his doctor tried to correct a condition known as mal-rotation of the bowel.

Mitchell had been living with this condition since his birth some 26 years before that day.

At that instant, Mitchell’s life changed from normal to abnormal and for the next six months he remained under the care of the same operating physician. With no success, the doctor released his care to a larger hospital.

Hoping to alleviate some of his financial strains and emotional distress, an angel disguised in the goodness of a friendship is spearheading a benefit concert/Mexican food dinner to help raise money to cover the cost of medical expenses for Mitchell, with the help of his church family — First Baptist Church of Avalon.

That friend is Melissa Gill.

“We’d known that Justin had been hospitalized for something but we didn’t know the extent of his illness until his mother read a letter one Sunday in church detailing his situation,” said Gill, who long with Mitchell’s mother, Ann Young, and the church family, has worked tirelessly to organize this benefit.

“This is a joint effort by the church family trying to raise money to help cover his medical expenses and traveling expenses for when his mother and his sons have to travel to Dumont UCLA Transplant Center in California where he (Justin) will soon undergo an intestinal transplant,” Gill said. “He will be there for five days for tests, blood works and evaluations, and then the doctors will determine what needs to be done for him.”

The benefit will be from 5-8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, at First Christian Church’s Christian Life Center, located at 1109 Brown St. in Waxahachie.

Local musician Casey Needham of Italy and a Houston-based group, Branded Duo, will provide the entertainment — free of charge.

Food for the benefit will be donated by Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Don Jose’s, Applebee’s, Johnny Carino’s, Occasions Unlimited, Busy B’s Bakery in Midlothian, Caroline’s Country Caf/ in Midlothian, Chili’s Grill and Bar in Ennis, Beverly Gatlin (bakery), and Card and Party Factory in Ennis. Ferris Street Baptist Church’s adult group is offering its help by cooking enchiladas.

Tickets for the benefit are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 and older, and free for children ages 5 and younger. For a group with more than 20 people, ticket prices will be discounted. Ticket prices include the meal, drink, dessert and concert.

Amid all of the singing, dancing and socializing, the goal will remain the same — raising funds to help benefit Mitchell and his family.

“We want and need as many donations as possible,” Gill said. “We sent out letters to about 50 churches throughout Ellis County asking for love offerings or just participation. I’ve placed flyers in Ennis, Waxahachie, Avalon and Italy; contacted KBEC; and contacted channels 4, 5, 8 and 11 news stations for any kind of publicity or support. Anything we can get, we’ll take because Justin is such a wonderful person. He’s a family man, a good father and he’s always there when someone needs him … no matter the problem.”

Young said in a letter that she just wants the best medical support and help for her son in order to make his life a little easier.

“What Justin needs is the proper effort from the medical community that he most surely deserves,” the letter reads. “They need to reach out to any and all of the medical specialists that might be able to help Justin.

“Justin chose to be a deputy sheriff and in doing so, he made a commitment to serve and protect the people of his community even if it meant dying for them,” the letter reads. “You can just imagine, though, how we might be just a little disappointed as how quickly the medical community seemed to give up on him. We are asking for help and with the help of God, it will land into the hands of someone that can help him because time is running out.”

In August 2005, Mitchell found support from his fellow co-workers of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, with $18,000 raised during another benefit.

Mitchell has three sons: Jacob, 12; Josh, 8; and Jonathan, 3.

To make a donation in Mitchell’s name, contact Vintage Bank in Waxahachie at (972) 935-5200 or Gill at (972) 483-6156.

E-mail Chicarra at