Hayley Slaughter – An Unselfish Donation for a U.S. Veteran 

Z-SORTA HORIZONTAL-Haley in Sweatshirt

Hayley Slaughter is a DOVE kidney donor who lives in Mountain Home. Under the word DOVE, her sweatshirt reads, “Living Kidney Donations for Veterans.” Having now herself donated a kidney, Slaughter helps mentor other potential donors for the program. (Photo taken by Gaye Bunderson) 

By Gaye Bunderson 

From the age of 8, Hayley Slaughter wanted to do something that no other child in the world ever likely wanted to do: give away one of her organs. “I’ve always wanted to be a kidney donor,” the now 35-year-old said. 

She started early on in life seeking to give parts of herself away, beginning with a desire to make a bone marrow donation to help people suffering with leukemia or lymphoma. “I started donating blood at 15; and at 18, I got on the bone marrow and live tissue registry. I thought I might be called for a kidney,” she explained. 

That didn’t happen the way she thought. 

What she didn’t know back then was that her desire had been planted in her heart by a Someone she didn’t know at the time, for the purpose of helping someone who wasn’t even sick yet. 

The young woman who now lives in Mountain Home was born and raised in Albany, Ore. Regarding her faith back then, Slaughter said, “I believed in God, but I didn’t have a strong relationship with Him.” 

That all changed when she worked as a certified nursing assistant in home care and hospice settings. It was a hospice patient who originally got her to open up her spirit. “The last client I saw, I witnessed her faith in God, and I saw how beautiful that could be – she had no fear in death.” 

When Slaughter started going to church, she got very involved through music. “I went to the Nazarene Church and started playing flute, and that’s when I really started getting into church and getting involved. I was the preschool director, director of the blood drives and the clothing drives.” 

She attended the Mountain Home church with her family: her husband Travis and their three young children. The music made her feel closer to God. But then… 

She explained: “I’m a strong-willed person, and I want things my way; but I felt God was telling us to leave that church, where we had been for 10 years.” 

The “known” provided her with comfort. God wanted her to grow through the “unknown.” 

“I was scared. I was starting over. I was losing the music,” she said. Nevertheless, she and Travis made the decision to attend The Rock, a church in Mountain Home, after trying another church that  didn’t feel right to them. 

There was music at The Rock, and people there were attempting to form a band. But Slaughter’s schedule didn’t fit anyone else’s. She admits that losing the music made her feel downcast. 

“I was sulky about it and asking, ‘Why, God?’.” 

She realized that at the same time, she was getting something from the sermons. The kids were growing up well. There were positives. 

In March of 2022, Slaughter happened to read an article in Woman’s Day Magazine about a national project called DOVE, or Donor Outreach for Veterans, all about donating kidneys to veterans. Travis is a veteran and served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. 

“I contacted DOVE immediately,” she said. It was to be the connection she’d waited for since her registry days, and even before that. 

She did an intake phone interview with Sharyn Kreitzer, founder of DOVE. The process of being a kidney donor began at last. 

She soon filled out an online health questionnaire and spoke over the phone with a transplant nurse in Hackensack, N.J. She’d come up as a match with someone in the database who needed a kidney. But after the initial elation, medical staff rejected her because her mother has diabetes and she has PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). 

“I was heartbroken. I had very intensely wanted to do this. I definitely felt God wanted me to do this,” Slaughter said. 

Then, in record time, Kreitzer referred her to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. She once again filled out a questionnaire, and she addressed the medical issues in her and her mother. “I wanted them to know I’m healthy. I have a good body mass index, I do martial arts, and I’m careful about my diet. I wanted to tell them, ‘Please, look at me as a person’.” 

Though she had discussions with Walter Reed, she remained in Mountain Home. She was continually assaulted by doubts about being selected as a kidney donor. “I was feeling they were going to reject me. I felt the defeat, and I was just crushed.” 

Little did she realize that that moment was not the beginning of the end but the beginning of the culmination of an 8-year-old’s longtime goal. 

Following the sense of absolute despair, Slaughter said, “That’s when I handed control over to God and said, ‘Thy will be done’.” 

At this point, even if He decided she was not going to be a donor, she would endeavor to accept His will. Slaughter mentions a book she’d read titled, “Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul” by Christian author Jennie Allen. It has become a favorite of hers; she prayed the special prayer mentioned in the book: to essentially relinquish all control to God. 

Soon, her despair led her to victory. “I realized that I hadn’t made God number one in my life. I wanted what I wanted instead of asking, ‘What does God want?’ I surrendered control and prayed, ‘Help me to accept the outcome,’ because I knew I would be crushed if I couldn’t be a kidney donor.” 

Six weeks after her initial contact with DOVE, she donated a kidney, a process that most generally takes 3-5 months. “When I heard I’d been accepted, I yelled to my family, ‘They are going to let me be a donor!’ And I was screaming.” 

Prior to her hospitalization at Walter Reed, she was required to undergo a series of tests, some of which she was able to do locally, including blood, urine, and glucose tests. She then went to Walter Reed for the remaining tests before being cleared and later flying back for the surgery. 

She had spoken with donors in the past, but prior to the transplant she was able to speak over the phone with the soon-to-be recipient of her kidney, a 40-something female military veteran named Candice, who suffered with FSGS, or focal segmental glomerulosclerosis kidney disease. 

“She told me what the donation meant to her.” That conversation meant a lot to Slaughter. 

Slaughter said the Bible verse that inspired her the most through everything was Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” 

She saw herself undergoing the surgery as much for the Lord as for the recipient. The surgery saved the woman’s life. There was the proof that God put the desire to be a kidney donor in Slaughter’s heart way back in childhood, and brought it to fulfillment years later. The donation took place on June 23, 2022. 

Slaughter and Candice met prior to surgery and the women established a warm connection. “She was in the OR next to me; and when my kidney was taken out, they walked it over to her.” 

Almost everyone possesses two kidneys, though a small percentage of people are only born with one. One of Slaughter’s two healthy kidneys was removed and surgically implanted in Candice to replace her diseased kidney. Despite all possible adverse outcomes, the transfer went smoothly. 

Slaughter’s husband traveled the donor journey all along with his wife. She always had his support, and he flew with her to Bethesda. “In the days after the surgery, Travis and I walked six miles all over Washington, D.C. The month I donated, prior to the surgery, I got my purple belt in taekwondo; eight months after I donated, I got my brown stripe belt.” 

The woman who wanted to be treated like a person – and a healthy one at that – had demonstrated just how well she truly was and is. She now serves as a mentor to other donors, and the November 22 issue of Woman’s Day ran a feature specifically on her. She also received the Idaho Spirit of Freedom Award, which is presented to individuals in only two categories: veterans and volunteers who assist veterans.   

“I use all this to share and inspire at least one person,” Slaughter said. She wants all readers to know that March 14 is World Kidney Day. Though just a few people chided her for taking the risk of being a kidney donor, and in doing so potentially leaving her children motherless, most were supportive, and Slaughter hopes everyone will see the value in kidney donation. 

Of her family she said, “We pray, we tithe, we try to be an example.” 

Slaughter herself is a great example. “God blessed me with two kidneys, and I only needed one,” she said. Because of that, a woman who served her country remains alive and healthy today. 

 

For more information, go to DoveTransplant.org. 

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