TNCC Staff Member Donates a Portion of His Liver

Published: April 6, 2009

When Edwin Slater asked for time off last summer, he told his supervisor he was going to Disney World. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. The 24-year-old Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) Information Technology Help Desk Technician was actually heading to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. to donate 80 percent of his liver.

Slater underwent the surgery to help a woman at his church, The Body of Christ Outreach in Newport News. The recipient, a U.S. Navy wife and mother in her mid-30s who battled liver disease for more than a year, had secured several donors before her condition worsened. That’s when her potential donors decided not to go through with the procedure. “They looked at her health and she deteriorated to the point where it didn’t look like she was going to make it,” Slater said.

The woman’s skin darkened and developed a snake-like texture. She started to loose her hair and her weight dropped rapidly, but Slater simply prayed for her recovery. He never considered helping the woman, practically a stranger. “I prayed one day and I wasn’t even really thinking about it and then the Lord told me to do it,” Slater said.

When Slater decided to donate a portion of his liver, he assured the family that he didn’t expect public gratitude or a lasting friendship. He became a donor because God told him to take part in saving her life. “I believe the Bible says the man should lay his life down for a friend and she wasn’t my friend so, to do it for somebody you really don’t consider a friend is even greater,” Slater said.

After a period of praying and fasting, Slater headed to Washington, D.C. last July for the procedure, but after an interview, the doctors asked him to return to Newport News to reconsider his decision. They suspected Slater was na├»ve and didn’t have enough knowledge of the procedure and risks to make an informed decision. Slater was told that his liver would start to regenerate shortly after the surgery, so he found comfort in knowing that there were no long-term risks involved. “If you were going to die at 90, you’re still going to die at 90. Nothing changes. Everything is still the way it’s supposed to be,” Slater said.

Despite warnings of a long hospital stay, a large scar and loss of his abdominal muscle mass, the workout buff went through with the 15-hour surgery in August. The doctors removed 80 percent of his liver and his gallbladder. “When I woke up, that was the worst pain I’d ever felt. It felt like my stomach was missing,” Slater said.

It didn’t take long for Slater to bounce back. After taking daily walks around the hospital, he convinced doctors to discharge him nearly a week early. He returned to work in September and is back in the gym twice a day again. Slater says he can do everything he could do before the surgery. He can eat whatever he wants and the scar is hardly noticeable. “It looks like a bee stung me. That’s how small it is,” he said.
The keys to his quick recovery were staying in shape and prayer. “If God tells you to do something, do it and you’re not going to have any type of issue and what they say is going to happen is not going to happen. Just go by what He tells you,” Slater said.


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