At the beginning of this year, I took a job caring for Vittoria Marano King, who has several nicknames such as TT or T-bone, but who is best known as Tori.
I'll admit I took the job thinking it would be temporary. I was almost 25 and figured it was time to get a real job. This would be a way to make money until then, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong. This job turned out to be one of the most invaluable experiences I've ever had.
At 10 weeks old, Tori was diagnosed with a rare, chronic disease of the liver called biliary atresia, caused when an unknown virus attacked the bile ducts of her liver and caused them to stop working. A week later, Tori underwent a Kasai procedure, a major surgery (her first of many) in which the small intestine is connected to the liver to help drain bile. The procedure was only partially successful, which meant Tori was going to have to get a liver transplant, and sooner rather than later.
I started working for the family at the end of January. On Feb. 1, the Friday of my first week, Tori had a fever and we were told to monitor it while her doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital decided what to do.
Her fever kept creeping up, so they decided she needed to be admitted to the hospital in Cincinnati. This was her 17th admission to the hospital. That Friday also happened to be Tori's first birthday.
Since then, it's been a whirlwind of doctor's appointments, clinic visits, fevers, overnight stays and more surgeries. She has been admitted to the hospital more than 30 times.
She had endoscopies every three weeks to treat esophageal varices, enlarged veins in her esophagus that had developed as an effect of her dying liver, a dangerous complication of cirrhosis.
It is dangerous because if one were to rupture, the blood loss would be life threatening. On May 8, during a trip home from a checkup in Cincinnati with Tori, her mom and sister, one did rupture. This was the scariest moment of my life.
After the rupture, Tori's doctors in Cincinnati decided it would be best for Tori to be close while she waited for a transplant. So in mid-May, I moved with Tori and her family to Cincinnati to await a new liver.
On July 15, the call finally came and Tori received a liver transplant. Unfortunately, five days later, there were some complications with the arteries of the new liver, and it was decided Tori needed yet another transplant.
She was placed at the top of the national list, and luckily got a second liver the very next day. Tori, who was 17 months at the time, had two liver transplants within eight days.
Things went better with the second surgery and this liver, as her doctors said, is "beautiful." Tori and her family still have a long road ahead. She takes daily medications and faces the chance of acute rejection, fevers, countless clinic visits and many other complications.
It's a tough journey, but luckily, Tori has incredibly strong parents, Andrea and Bill, a sweet big sister, Ella, and loving family and friends all over the country.