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Diara Smalling, Front Office Specialist at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Conroe
Diara Smalling, Front Office Specialist at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Conroe Headshot Image.png
Texas Children’s Hospital

Ciara Smalling Perseveres and Makes Good on a Promise to Her Childhood Pediatrician

Plenty of kids know what they want to be when they grow up. However, not many children know where they want to do it. Front Office Specialist at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Conroe, Ciara Smalling is the exception. She has spent every day of her life working her way back to the institution that saved her life over 25 years ago.

In March of 1997 at just two years old, Ciara was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. In the span of 48 hours, she was quarantined at Texas Children’s, and her family was told she was in acute liver failure with only days to live and put on the transplant list.

It was here at Texas Children’s Ciara received a series of experimental liver infusions via a vein in her abdomen. The treatment was designed to stall the cirrhosis long enough to find a suitable donor to complete a transplant. Despite losing seven previous patients with this treatment, Ciara’s was a success; the first of its kind. She woke up from an induced coma with improving numbers. As the doctors walked out of her transplant surgery, one said, “Her liver was 99% dead. She’s a miracle.”

Ciara’s time at Texas Children’s left a profound impact on her. It’s been her greatest dream to return to the organization that saved her life and made her family feel at ease, but this time as an employee. At just three years old, she can remember making her pediatrician, Dr. Charles McPherson, a promise:

“Dr. Mac, I’m going to work for you one day!”

Through a series of fortunate and unbelievable coincidences, she is doing exactly that, greeting patients at the same pediatric clinic he now works at in Conroe.

Upon entering Texas Children’s first day orientation program, Texas Children’s Hi, Ciara started crying. She said it felt like she’d made a complete circle and she was “home, where she was supposed to be.” She had achieved what she’d set out to do and now gets to be a cheerful, positive presence for parents and children coming into her clinic.

But Ciara’s aspirations don’t stop there. Her ultimate goal is to work in the transplant center, walking kids through the scariest times of their lives while showing them you can come out on the other side stronger than you ever imagined. “I want to be an inspiration and to show them you can get through this.”

Ciara’s story, one of perseverance and tenacity, provides hope and proves that miracles happen at Texas Children’s every day.

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