When Kiersten Miles, 22, agreed to look after George and Farra Rosko’s three children, Mattea, 7, Trey, 5, and baby Talia, 9 months, she assumed it would be like any other summer babysitting job. However, within weeks of starting, it became apparent that Miles was anything but “any other” babysitter.
Talia had biliary atresia, a rare liver disease that affects 1 in 18,000 infants. The disease causes the bile ducts that normally drain to the gallbladder to be blocked, leaving the backed up bile to cause irreparable damage to the liver. While temporary fixes are available, the only permanent solution is a liver transplant. Without one, Talia’s doctor said she likely wouldn’t live past the age of two. For the Roskos, it was a fate they had already accepted.
Though Talia was on a waiting list for a liver match, the Roskos were afraid to get their hopes up. But then hope arrived on their doorstep, in the form of a selfless 22-year-old college student.
Miles knew about Talia’s condition when she first started. Her friend had known the Roskos for a long time and was the one that introduced the family to Kiersten. But that summer was when she learned that all the baby needed to survive was a liver transplant. Though Kiersten has always been a huge blood donor, she had never given thought to live organ donorship. Moreover, she didn’t know it was possible to donate part of one’s liver.
When Miles found out that Talia was on a donor waiting list, she did something that no one expected–she offered her own liver to the infant.
Though Talia’s parents were thrilled Kiersten wanted to donate, they were cautious about letting their babysitter–a young girl they had just met–make such a huge decision.
“We were never ‘looking’ for an organ donor, and we would never ask anyone if they wanted to donate, especially someone we didn’t know that well,” said Rosko. “I wanted to be sure she knew this wasn’t like giving blood…that it was a serious surgery and she had to speak to her family about this. She said she had already spoken with her mother and she was good to go. She was very confident that this was something that she wanted to do.”
They urged her to talk to her parents about it first. Mile’s mother was on board.
“I talked to my mom after doing the research and then went forward to talking to Farra,” said Kiersten. “My mom has been supportive through the whole process. She keeps saying how proud of me she is and tells people she wasn’t really surprised I wanted to do this.”
On January 11, 2017–just seven months after the two met–Kiersten and Talia went to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for their 14-hour operation. First, the doctors gave Kiersten anesthesia and removed part of her liver, and then they immediately performed a transplant on little Talia.
The operation was a success.
Though Kiersten no longer works for the Roskos, she says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I definitely think it’s important to spread awareness about living organ donation and organ donation in general,” said Miles. “I don’t think many people know you can donate a part of your liver, most only hear about donating a kidney. After going through the entire process from start to finish, I would 100 percent do it again.”
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“She has turned a hopeless situation into a hopeful situation,” said Rosko. “Without Kiersten we would be sitting waiting for a deceased donor to come and save Talia. We would be watching our baby deteriorate. Without Kiersten I’m not sure where we would be…to be honest, I don’t really want to think about it.”
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