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When Austin Slater was getting ready for his senior year of high school, his mind was on basketball. He was doing two-a-day practices and going to recruitment showcases for Division 1 colleges.
But something was wrong. He was too tired. He could barely jump up to reach the net, when he’d previously been able to dunk. At first, he thought it was a change in allergy medication. Soon it became clear, it was something more.
In September 2015, the Woodlawn native and his parents ended up at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for some tests. That’s when he learned he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“Normally, I’m a pretty a confident guy,” Austin admitted, “almost to the point of cocky. But I don’t lose. That was my mindset. So when they said cancer, I just told the doctor, I would beat it. Because I got stuff to do and places to be. It wasn’t until later that it sank in how hard this was going to be.”
The focus of his senior year changed. Instead of hours in the weight room or on the basketball court, he spent his time at ACH. He wasn’t able to play with his team like he’d imagined on senior night. But he did make it to the prom.
“People try not to look at you differently,” he said. “And they don’t mean to. But they can’t help it. You are different. For me, it was a spiritual thing. The whole experience deepened my faith. And it meant a lot that my doctor, Dr. Joanna Mack, was also a person of faith. It was really comforting to have that kind of connection and encouragement from her.”
In fact, the doctors, nurses and staff of 4K became his new team. They were there during chemo, to help with homework and sometimes just to talk during the late night hours when side effects kept him from sleeping.
“They called me their little brother,” he remembers. “Anything we needed, they took care of it. The woman who was helping with insurance would show up with my favorite cookies when she knew I was there. I’m sure there are other great hospitals, but the people at Arkansas Children’s are second to none.”
Today, the 19-year-old college freshman at Arkansas State University is in remission. He will do maintenance treatments for two more years.
“I know it doesn’t seem like it would be, but honestly, this whole experience has been a blessing,” Austin said.
Join me in helping kids! When you support me with a donation to Arkansas Children's Hospital, you'll be making a life-saving difference.
Your gift helps provide world-class medical care and helps create an environment where kids can be kids - even when they're sick.
Every dollar you give is meaningful. Consider giving:
$27 the cost of 10 aluminum finger splints
$50 the cost of an infant blood pressure cuff
$78 the cost of 6 pairs of child crutches
$150 the cost of an IV pole
$250 the cost of one day’s worth of diapers
You can make a difference. Just enter the donation amount to the left.