Natalia Walker’s first birthday was a cause for celebration in more ways than one. It was the day she received a liver transplant from a donor she’d never met.
Walker was born with biliary artresia — the same disease that affected the Ohio baby boy whose mother saved his life with her liver. And like Brodie’s story, Natalia’s ends happily too.
Natalia’s parents, Diane and Chris Walker, first noticed something was wrong when their daughter’s jaundice didn’t go away. A diagnosis revealed her bile ducts hadn’t formed properly. While an initial surgery was attempted to bypass the blocked ducts, it was unsuccessful.
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Natalia needed a liver transplant. Her parents were not donor candidates, so she was placed on the national organ transplant waiting list in April.
By August, Natalia was being christened. One of the guests at the christening? Mom Diane Walker’s coworker and longtime friend, Joy, who was extremely worked up about the situation.
“This baby is not going to survive without a liver,” Joy told her daughter, Diana Rotter, when she returned home from the christening.
“My mom had been talking about [the Walker family] in general for months,” Rotter, 30, told TODAY. “She asked me if I would ever consider donating my liver… and I said sure.”
From August until November, Rotter underwent a series of tests to confirm that she was, in fact, a match for baby Natalia. And as Natalia’s conditioned worsened, doctors at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital decided the surgery had to be sooner rather than later. The date was set for November 17 — the baby’s first birthday.
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Rotter’s surgery took about four hours, and Natalia’s took eight as doctors addressed other complications from biliary atresia.
Both Natalia and Rotter are doing well. Rotter, a movie theater manager, has been discharged, and was able to cover almost all of her month off from work by combining sick days and vacation days. She will likely lose about a week of income.
“(Natalia) is doing well so that’s all I really care about,” she said.
“Last year, we were thankful for the baby and now we’re just thankful that we’ve gained so many new members to our family,” Walker said. “Now we’re related: Diana is a part of my daughter so we’ve gained new family. Diana has given my daughter a chance to live.” —Anisa Arsenault
(Photo: Walker family via TODAY)
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