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"Look Here Mister!"

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Ron Slaughter

In 1974, Ronald Slaughter was serving his country in the United States Navy aboard the USS Pyro . After several long months at sea, the Pyro moored at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Ron couldn't wait to set foot on dry land.

"I wanted to get as far away from the Pyro as possible," he says. The moment he got shore leave, he stopped at a restaurant and ordered a sandwich and a cold beer.

"When I sat down, I looked up and saw the most beautiful woman I have ever seen." Her name was Edna Corral--4'11" and 20 years old. Ron made the sandwich last forever, enjoying every second around the lovely girl. Ron and Edna had fallen in love. Just like that.

Ron and Edna in the 'Kissing Cave'

Moving to a New Land

In October of 1974, Ron was honorably discharged and returned to his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He hit home and starting trying to find a way to bring his beloved Edna to the U.S. Before he even looked for a job, Ron enlisted the help of his local congressman, who expedited a fiancé visa for Edna. In March of 1975, she arrived in Nashville. A few weeks later, on April 25, 1975, Ron and Edna Slaughter married.

Like the hard working American man she married, Edna's family had instilled in her the belief that hard, honest work would bring good health and a good life. Edna and Ron saw the world the same way, though they grew up on its opposite sides. American values of partnership, love, hard work and honesty bound these two people together in body and spirit, in mind and in soul.

Edna's love of adventure manifested itself in the way she quietly pulled up stakes and moved to a foreign land. Yet she also had a spirited sense of play. Days after they married, Ron came home from work to an empty house. His worry and guilt about asking Edna to leave her family, friends, and home to Tennessee, where all she knew was Ron, made him fearful. Was she lost or had Edna decided that this new world and new life were more than she could adapt to?

He left the house, consumed with worry, and began walking through the neighborhood in search of his bride. A sudden commotion got his attention. A group of local kids, some tossing a ball and some climbing trees, were all laughing, pointing, and talking to a beautiful girl who sat on the topmost limb. It was Edna, showing the local kids how you really climb a tree…and who was the real top dog.

Partners in Love and in Life

Ron and Edna were inseparable. They had few close friends because they were completely and utterly fulfilled in the company of one another. Every errand was something to do together, whether shopping for groceries, going to church, going on trips, and most of all working together.

Edna and Ron fishing Percy Priest Lake in Nashville

Ron worked as a machinist, but constantly worked extra jobs as he was a skilled remodeler. "I always said there were only two things I couldn't fix--the crack of dawn and a broken heart." Edna was his one and only helper. Indefatigable, bright, and eager to learn, Edna had soon mastered the remodeling trade. Ron felt he had become the apprentice, and she the journeyman. As with everything else, work was just another chance to be together, to laugh, and be in love. If there were no weekend remodeling jobs, they made a few sandwiches, loaded a cooler and drove until they found a place to picnic. "We didn't have much and we didn't need much. We didn't starve or struggle, and we always made ends meet. We did it together."

The Slaughters were a team, "joined at the hip. If I stubbed my toe at work, I'd come home and Edna would be limping." Edna knew that the team stuck together, no matter what. When a confrontation or conflict occurred, and Edna began biting her lower lip "something was up." And when Edna said the ominous words, "Look here, mister...," the situation was about to turn bad for whomever had crossed her. "It was my job to diffuse the situation and get Edna away just to save the other guy!"

Great Parents, Wonderful Kids

In July of 1976, their daughter Analiza was born, followed by daughter Marta and son Deata. The Slaughters may have lived modestly, but the love, affection, work ethic and family support were unstinting. Living with parents who loved each other deeply, and learning early on that the family was a team, each child grew to adulthood in happiness and security.

Analiza tackled and completed a five-year intensive training program with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and now works as a certified senior hydropower plant operator in Tennessee. For her closeknit and loving parents, Analiza blessed them with their first granddaughter, Megan.

Daughter Marta is a talented artist now working on her masters degree in fine arts at the University of South Florida. Travel grants, fellowships, and exhibition awards throughout her academic career have marked the ability of this talented and hard working artist.

Edna with granddaughter, MeganEdna and Ron in Florida, August of 2005, still climbing trees

Son Deata is an honors student entering his senior year of high school, studying music at the Nashville School of the Arts, a nationally ranked magnet school. Good family, good values, love and teamwork characterize these solid, hardworking American people.

It wasn't long before Edna was called "Mom" not only by her kids, but by Ron and everyone else who knew her. "She became the boss and we liked it that way," said Ron. Strong-willed, independent, and determined, Edna traded her family, country, and way of life for Ron without regrets or hesitation. "We loved each other and wanted to be married. I love my husband, he is a good man. When I first met him, I called him Ronnie the mechanic, because he fixes everything."

Ron and Edna love the outdoors. Edna spent her time running, walking, fishing, and hiking. She and Ron knew how to have fun indoors, too. They would shoot pool, dance, and sing karaoke, and find time for community organizations as well. They are active members of the local chapter of the Philippine American Foundation. Edna's boundless vigor and active lifestyle meant that with the exception of childbirth, she had never even been to a doctor.

Onslaught of Mesothelioma

On February 22, 2006, Edna's lifestyle and active ways came to an abrupt halt.

When she began complaining of left-sided chest pain and a shortness of breath, Ron rushed her to the emergency room at the Nashville General Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Chest films indicated pneumonia. The physician prescribed antibiotics and sent her home.

But the symptoms failed to go away, and the eternally energetic and vivacious Edna was beset with chronic fatigue as she found herself laboring even to breathe. She returned for another opinion, and the new x-rays showed massive collection of fluid in the lining of her lungs. This time she was diagnosed with pleurisy, a painful inflammation of the lung linings, but they remained concerned.

Her worsening condition brought Edna back to the hospital. One month after her first symptoms of pain, Dr. Ian Morales, Chief of Pulmonary Medicine at Nashville General Hospital, performed a bronchoscopy with thoracentesis to drain the fluid from Edna's chest. Tests on the removed fluid and tissue were inconclusive, and Edna returned home with antibiotics and pain medication.

Ron was distraught by the worsening condition of his wife and partner, a woman who had been able to work side by side with the strongest and most able of men. By May 4 the fluid had returned and Edna underwent a second procedure by Dr. Joe B. Putnam, Chairman of Thoracic Surgery at Vanderbilt University to drain the fluid and examine the inside of her chest wall.

The pathologist evaluated the tissue that Dr. Putnam had removed during surgery, and delivered a horrific blow with his diagnosis: Edna's chest had been invaded by epithelial pleural mesothelioma, a malignant and unstoppable killer for which there is no known cure.

Ron and Edna

When Dr. Putman entered the waiting room, he asked all of Edna's family and friends to step outside so he could talk to Ron alone. He relayed the diagnosis and told him the cancer was terminal. This shook Ron to his core, and violated everything he knew: to Ron Slaughter, everything could be fixed. When Ron explained the diagnosis to his anxious children, the devastation was complete.

Dwindling Medical Options for Treatment

Edna urgently wanted to pursue a treatment program to afford her more life. Mesothelioma has eluded a cure, but cutting-edge medicines and skilled surgeons have devised a number of techniques to stave off the final result. Edna's desire for treatment, however has been complicated by several factors. Her unendurable and constant, excruciating pain required a daily regimen of the most powerful painkillers, as well as a pain patch to alleviate the distress.

Surgical options, including an extra-pleural pneumonectomy that would reduce the tumor by amputating the affected lung, were rejected by Edna, whose optimism and hope that she would beat the disease made her slow to accept the amputation. Her doctors also feared that the relentless and aggressive mesothelioma had spread away from her lungs, making any surgery on the lung itself of questionable value.

On May 26 the Slaughters sent Edna's medical records to Dr. Harvey Pass, Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology at the New York University School of Medicine and Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Pass discussed a tri-modal therapy to combat Edna's mesothelioma. Edna would begin with chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation.

Since electing this treatment plan, Edna completed six chemotherapy treatments of Alimta and Cisplatin. The pain now racks her entire body, and the cancer has spread to her spine and hips. She cannot understand why this is happening to her: a few months ago she and Ron were remodeling their kitchen, playing with Megan, and laughing. Always laughing.

Edna, April 6, 2006

Once-bright Future Fraught with Worry and Doubt

"I am scared for my children, my husband, that he will get what I got. Sometimes I feel like I wish, you know, that this is just a dream and have to keep pinching myself to wake up. It is so hard. So hard to breathe. You hurt every day, every night. I cannot take care of my kids. I am living in a death trap."

But the team is always there, and the strength and love that this family has for its mother shines through with astonishing power and vitality, even as Edna slips further behind. Marta has moved back to Nashville from Florida to help her parents cope with medical treatment and do the daily chores. Marta has put her graduate studies on hold, and she gave up a scholarship to study in London and Paris during the summer of 2006. From afar, the team has coalesced around their dying mother. Analiza and her daughter Megan, precious to her grandmother, have moved back home to help.

Before being stricken with mesothelioma, Edna and Ron worked extra jobs to put money away for Deata's education at Vanderbilt University, where his dream is to enter medical school. This dream too may well be deferred. Ron is no longer working and cares for Edna full time. Their only hope now is that Deata will be awarded an academic scholarship. The team is there, but it is stretched to the point of breaking.

Edna is bedridden and on oxygen around the clock. In her sleep she waves her arms as she dreams of being with Ron, remodeling their kitchen.

Ron deals with the new world he has to live in, the new world of being alone.

"Last week, I went to Arby's to buy a milkshake, alone. I also went shopping for a pair of blue jeans and didn't know what I was doing. Mom is always with me. Always. I'm walking around in a fog. All the time. I always thought I would be the first one to go. My family is all I have. Nothing else in the world has ever mattered to me other than my family. Why is this happening? She is my best friend, my partner. I don't want to lose her. You know, I used to think there were only two things I couldn't fix. Now I know there are three."

*** POSTED DECEMBER 27, 2006 ***

Edna Slaughter passed away on December 31, 2006

Edna Slaughter

*** POSTED DECEMBER 27, 2006 ***