Doctors dedicate their lives to caring for and healing the sick, and even take an oath to do no harm. So when they come to a diagnosis, there’s no reason to doubt it’s the truth.
Yet when one Massachusetts couple gave birth to a ‘healthy’ baby girl, their instincts told them something was seriously wrong. Doctors brushed off their concerns, but months later, they finally realized the paranoid parents had been right all along…
Bundle Of Joy
After 9 long months awaiting the arrival of their second child, Sarah and Chris St. James were overjoyed when they finally gave birth to a perfect baby girl in April 2017. However, the Massachusetts couple’s joy was mixed with concern when they first laid eyes on baby Sloan.
Sloan was perfect but Sarah and Chris couldn’t help but notice her skin and eyes looked slightly yellow. Doctors diagnosed Sloan with jaundice, a common condition in newborns. In most cases, jaundice can go away on its own, but more severe cases can be easily treated with light therapy…
A Mild Case
Doctors assured the new parents that Sloan just had a slightly elevated level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment that is made when red blood cells break down. Sarah and Chris were told that it would clear itself up as Sloan’s liver began to develop and properly process the bilirubin.
No Signs Of Improvement
Sarah and Chris were relieved to hear Sloan was perfectly healthy and were thrilled that they could now take their newborn home and introduce her to her older brother, Carter. However, as the weeks turned into months, Sloan’s coloring never improved…
A Mother’s Instinct
“I brought it up to our pediatrician and they weren’t concerned about it,” said the 33-year-old mom, who couldn’t help but feel like something serious was going on. “[Sloan] started getting a little belly and her belly was getting more swollen than the rest of her.”
3.5 Months Later
“As a parent, we put our trust in medical professionals and they were telling me she was ‘fine.’ But in the back of my head, and in my gut, something wasn’t right,” Sarah explained. Finally in August 2017, when Sloan was 3.5 months old, they finally got a doctor to listen…
“I wanted to have peace of mind that everything was okay. But when I took her in on August 8, the doctor that saw her was very concerned,” Sarah said. The doctor discovered that Sloan didn’t just have a typical case of jaundice like all the other doctors had claimed.
The entire time, Sloan had been battling biliary atresia, which is a rare and life-threatening condition in infants where the bile ducts inside or outside the liver don’t have normal openings. Over time, the bile becomes trapped and damages the liver…
When caught early, infants with biliary atresia can be treated with surgery. By the time Sloan was diagnosed, however, it was too late to perform the surgery since she was already in stage 4 liver failure. The only way to save Sloan now was with a liver transplant.
“It was the worst time of my entire life. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered,” Sarah said about Sloan’s diagnosis. “The very first thing we found out was that her liver was in stage 4 liver failure, which is the final. It’s the end. It was absolutely terrifying…”
The Wait Begins
The entire family got tested but no one was a match for Sloan. Doctors explained that now their only option was to put Sloan on the waitlist and wait until there was a match with a deceased donor, so Sarah and Chris brought Sloan back home to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.
Running Out Of Time
But once they were home, Sarah and Chris realized Sloan couldn’t wait any longer to find a donor. “Her liver was just failing over time. We thought we could wait it out until we got a match, but she started failing even quicker,” Sarah said. “She was just getting sicker and sicker. We couldn’t just wait around for a deceased person to match her…”
Finding A Donor
The couple were desperate to find a donor, and reached out on Facebook, where they had been regularly sharing updates about Sloan with their friends and families, to explain how desperate the situation was and how they were looking for a liver donor.
Help From A Stranger
Lt. Steve Tenney, a police officer from Keene, New Hampshire, knew Sarah and Chris through mutual friends. When the 40-year-old police officer and father of 2 saw the post and learned about Sloan’s battle, he was determined to help if he could…
Miraculously, Steve was a perfect match for Sloan. “It was incredible,” said Sarah, who couldn’t believe the cop was a match and was willing to donate part of his liver to someone he’d never even met. “It’s rare that the very first person is a perfect match.”
On September 8, 2017, Steve underwent surgery to remove one fifth of his liver. His healthy liver was then rushed 20 miles away to Boston Children’s Hospital where Sloan was waiting with a team of expert liver and surgical doctors to perform the transplant…
A Child In Need
“If you can help a suffering child you will,” said Steve. “I think most people would if they were in a position to help any child in need. It’s kind of a personal thing that everybody should have that humanity that if they were in a position to help someone that they could and should.”
Bonded For Life
The surgery was a success and a few weeks later, Steve was able to meet Sloan and her family.“She’s an adorable little girl. It’s great to see that although she still has a road to recovery, that she’s doing good and has a chance at living a normal life,” said Steve, who is now bonded with Sloan and her family. “I will, even from a distance, keep an eye and make sure [Sloan’s] doing okay…”
Road To Recovery
Since the surgery, Sloan’s health had improved dramatically and even though there have been a few complications, doctors are confident she’ll be able to live a normal life thanks to Steve’s generous gift. “Our liver team tells us the first one to two years after transplant are tough, with these rejection episodes and med adjustments, but their positivity and Sloan’s demeanor are so amazing and what help me on a daily basis.”
Hope For Change
While Sloan isn’t done fighting yet, Sarah and Chris are optimistic about what the future and are sharing their story to tell parents to always trust their gut no matter what doctors say, and to encourage everyone to become an organ donor and help save someone like Sloan’s life.