Looking at their daughter’s yellow skin, it was clear to Sarah and Chris St. James that something was not right. Then when their baby’s tummy started to grow, the concerns over her health intensified. As a result, they took her to a doctor, who rushed them to ER.
The St. Jameses come from Bourne, Massachusetts. Sarah works as an occupational therapist, while her husband Chris has a job in IT at Keolis Commuter Services. And when they aren’t busy earning a living, the couple enjoy their family life.
In early 2017, the couple were the proud parents of their two-year-old son Carter. Furthermore, they had another baby on the way. Thankfully, Sarah’s second pregnancy was going to plan. So the family were likely looking forward to meeting their new little girl.
Sarah was able to carry her daughter, who she named Sloan, full term and when she arrived in April 2017, her parents believed she was absolutely perfect. She was in good health, aside from a touch of jaundice.
Jaundice causes a yellow tint to the skin and the eyes. It is a fairly common condition among newborns. As a result, Sloan’s doctors told Sarah and Chris not to worry. Usually, jaundice goes away on its own after a week or two, and there was no reason to think Sloan’s case would be any different.
However, when the infant was two months old, she was still displaying a yellow tinge. And when her parents noticed that Sloan’s stomach appeared to be bloated too, they had their concerns. So although she was eating and growing well, Sarah and Chris decided to take her to a doctor, just for “peace of mind.”
In November 2017 Sarah told The Keene Sentinel, “Chris and I were like, ‘Something is just not right.’” So the concerned parents took Sloan to Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was due to undergo a four-month checkup.
When they arrived there, Sarah and Chris expected doctors to tell them they had nothing to worry about. However, a physician took one look at Sloan and knew something was wrong. Later, doctors diagnosed the infant with biliary atresia.
Biliary atresia is a form of liver disease in which the flow of bile is blocked from the organ by one or more faulty bile ducts. If caught early in infants, doctors can treat the condition without surgery. However, little Sloan was too far down the line for this option.
Doctors discovered Sloan’s condition had advanced so much it was almost causing stage four liver failure. This meant she would need a liver transplant to survive. It was the worst possible news her parents could have received, and understandably it shattered them.
Recalling the moment they heard Sloan’s worrying diagnosis, Sarah said, “Here we are thinking we’re bringing her in for peace of mind, and instead it was devastating. Your mind blocks out that it could be this, this and this. Instead, it was this, this and this – everything we dreaded came true.”
With no time to lose, doctors placed Sloan on a list to receive a liver from a deceased donor. However, while the youngster waited, her disease took a firmer grip on her. Her medical team sent her home for six days in August 2017. However, she later returned to hospital when her condition worsened.
It was then that it became clear to her parents that Sloan wouldn’t leave the hospital again without a transplant. So to bolster their chances of finding match, they expanded the search to living donors too. However, finding a suitable person would not be easy.
The protocol surrounding living organ donation is strict. Donors either have to be family members or an acquaintance. Furthermore, they must act through free will and pass psychological and physical tests to deem they are a match.
As a result, Sarah and Chris first looked to family members for help. However, none of them proved to be a match. Consequently, the determined parents took to social media for help. Using Facebook, they sent out a plea for potential donors to come forward.
That’s how police officer Lieutenant Steven Tenney first learned of Sloan’s condition. The 40-year-old is a cop with the Keene Police Department. And he has a mutual friend with the tot’s family through his brother, Jake Tenney.
Realizing he had the same blood type as Sloan, Steven decided to fill out a survey online. He then visited Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, for psychological and physical tests. At the end of the process, the cop discovered that he was a match.
Consequently, on September 8, 2017, Steven underwent surgery to remove a fifth of his liver at Lahey Hospital. From there, it was ferried 20 miles away to Boston Children’s Hospital where Sloan was awaiting her transplant. Thankfully, both procedures were successful.
In the months after her surgery, doctors will monitor Sloan carefully to ensure her new liver thrives. In cases like hers, there’s a 95 percent chance of survival after the first year. Meanwhile, Steven’s body will regrow the lost section of his liver.
While Sloan still has a long road to recovery ahead of her, her family will always be grateful for Steven’s gift. “He reached out right when this all started,” Sarah told The Keene Sentinel. “That just speaks to his character. It reminds us that there are great people in the world.”