30385 Cave Neck RoadMilton DelawareUnited States
Seven weeks and seven surgeries later, Lewes firefighter Jake Slater is finally home.
The 21-year-old Cape Region resident left Johns Hopkins Hospital late May 16, after receiving treatment for the second- and third-degree burns he suffered during a work-related accident in late March.
Jake Slater may be craving pizza and cheesesteaks, said his mother, Sharon Slater, but he's going to have to take it easy for a while.
“In time,” she said. “His body will let him know what his limits are.”
While there's no exact timeline to his recovery, Sharon said Jake will have to deal with both physical and emotional scarring after the explosive accident that severely burnt 70 percent of her son's body.
Jake was working at Delmarva Petroleum in Lincoln March 28 when sparks from the chop saw he was using to open a waste oil tank ignited vapors. The resulting explosion and flash fire left Slater seriously injured, with third-degree burns on his chest, stomach, back, legs and hands.
“It was terrifying because in the beginning, we never really knew what was going to happen,” Sharon said. The doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins kept a close eye on Jake, who was hooked up to artificial support as he went through surgeries and also suffered a bout of pneumonia.
Almost immediately after the accident, local fire departments, businesses, friends and family stepped up to support the Slaters. Since the accident, the community has raised more than $17,000 for his hospital expenses.
“It's beyond anything I could ever imagine,” Sharon said. “It was truly humbling, to be honest with you, to think our 21-year-old son could be so well known in the community.”
Glenn Marshall of the Lewes Fire Department, who has known Jake since he started with the department as a junior firefighter in 2011, said the Sussex County community never fails when tragedy strikes.
“I've been around long enough to see many different tragedies and events where the community needed to show up. We didn't even turn around from all this and fundraisers were popping up,” he said. “We are extremely happy that he is home and feel that he's blessed that he's had such a quick, but ongoing, recovery and quick return home.”
Jake, who many say is an outgoing, fun-loving guy, is still weak from the injuries and the seven skin-graph surgeries he underwent at Johns Hopkins, Sharon said, but he looks healthy.
“It has a happy ending,” Sharon said, crediting Jake's youth and health to his recovery. “Now Jacob's going to need support, moral support if nothing else, to keep him going and get him back in the role of who he was.”
Luckily, Sharon said, Jake doesn't remember the surgeries or the first few weeks spent in the hospital. But that means he also doesn't remember any of the visitors who came to check on him when he was still early in his recovery.
That's why Sharon decided to open her home to family and friends Saturday, May 20, from noon onward to provide an opportunity for neighbors to visit with Jake.
“Saturday is just for us to open the house to the community to say, 'Hey, here he is!'” she said. “From noon until whenever, people can come in and sit and talk a while.”
Supporters can stop by the Slaters' “Welcome Home Open House” at 30385 Cave Neck Road in Milton any time after noon May 20. For more, search “Jake Slater #JakeStrong” on Facebook. To make a donation, go to www.gofundme.com/jake-slater-hospital-expenses, or drop off a donation at any County Bank location for Sharon Slater C/O Jacob Slater.