A California baby is in good health and able to celebrate his second Christmas, thanks to a kind stranger who traveled across the country amid a pandemic to donate his liver and save the boy's life.
Young Jacob Cooper “enjoys life” and “is a natural smiler” according to a blog post written by his parents for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA).
The California tot was born in early December 2019, but spent most of his initial months in and out of the hospital because of jaundice. That’s when they discovered he was born with biliary atresia, a rare liver disease that can be deadly.
Doctors told his parents that the only chance for survival was a transplant. His parents, Chad and Aileen Cooper, were deemed unsuitable donors.
But just weeks later, doctors contacted the Coopers to let them know they found an anonymous donor that wants to save their baby’s life.
Michael Speck, a grandfather from northwestern Ohio, felt called to the good deed after he learned that donating a piece of a liver was possible while he was still alive, according to the Sandusky Register. Most hospitals he researched deemed Speck, who is 64, to be too old to donate, until he was put in contact with Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, the hospital handling Jacob’s transplant.
"The surgeon told me it was a little 10-month-old baby,” Speck told CBS News. “When I found that out, I just burst out crying.”
This isn’t the first time Speck has donated an organ. In 2016, he gave one of his kidneys to a stranger. “There’s so many people who can do the same thing I did,” he told CBS News.
He said his altruistic journey started when he was just 12 years old, when he was in a car crash that left him in a coma, the Sandusky Register reported.
Speck said he came out of a coma with no memory, and had to re-learn everything. Despite the setback, he went on to graduating from college with a 3.4 GPA, and pursued a career as a basketball coach and pizzeria owner.
“I’ve searched all my life to figure out why I was so lucky,” Speck told the Sandusky Register. “Why did God allow me to live and improve when others were not so blessed? I wanted to help others.”
Despite the pandemic, Speck traveled 2,000 miles from Ohio to California in order to donate 30% of his liver and save little Jacob’s life.
Over zoom, Jacob’s parents thanked Speck for being their Christmas miracle. Speck told the couple, “to be able to donate to a child, it’s a miracle.”