Every effort will be made by parents to keep their children safe and healthy. Imagine Matt and Andrea Campbell’s surprise when they learned that Matt was ineligible to be a donor for their 1-year-old son, Brooks, who was in desperate need of an organ donation.
Fortunately, Andrea’s younger brother, Grant, was eager to be the donor for his nephew, thus saving both of their lives. Brooks is now a rambunctious 2-year-old.
Matt and Andrea discussed Grant’s inspiring selfless act and their one-of-a-kind story in an interview.
The family was outside taking photos for their Christmas cards when Andrea noticed her 17-month-old son was looking a little yellow. Brooks puked after breakfast the next morning, causing concern. The concerned parents immediately took their child to the doctor.
“His liver appeared to be structurally sound.” Andrea spoke up. “However, his liver numbers and lab results were astoundingly high.”
Brook, it turned out, had acute liver failure, possibly caused by a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). It is a very common, contagious virus that causes respiratory infections.
The GI doctor then informed the worried parents that Brooks would be transferred to Cleveland Clinic in case he required a liver transplant.
“It was like a ton of bricks,” Andrea described her feelings. “I mean, how did this happen?”
“We didn’t know what caused the liver failure (at the time), but the situation was really, really urgent,” says Dr. Koji Hashimoto, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s living donor liver transplantation program. “He didn’t have much liver function left when he arrived.” And if your liver function is completely lost, you will not be able to survive.”
With the liver transplant being the only option to save Brooks, a separate team of Cleveland Clinic caregivers quickly worked to conduct a rapid-fire and streamlined living organ donor evaluation for acute liver failure.
“To find a living donor for someone with chronic liver failure, you have days, weeks or even months to figure it out.” Dr Radhakrishnan, a pediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist explained. “But for Brooks, we didn’t have the luxury of time. We had to find the right person quickly.”
The team led by clinical nurse manager for a liver transplant, Donna Ferchill, RN, and transplant coordinator, Natashia Rush, began looking for a match within the immediate family. As Andrea was pregnant during the time, she was ruled out of possible candidates.
The father, Matt, hoped he would be the best choice. Unfortunately, hours of testing revealed a genetic blood clotting disorder – ruling him and everyone on his side of the family out.
“That was difficult to hear,” the father admitted. “I was mentally prepared to rush in and assist Brooks. Now we had to decide how we were going to approach this.”
When the parents learned that they were both ineligible, their entire family was present, including Andrea’s brother, Grant, who had flown in from Texas.
“When our little guy died, I realized, ‘I’m up.'” Grant remembered. “When I moved here from Austin, I felt like there was a reason for it.” And I began to think, ‘This is the reason.’ ‘I’m supposed to be the donor,’ I say.
Grant was tested and turned out to be a perfect match. Upon learning the good news, he immediately called his sister and shared his plans for organ donation.
“I said, ‘Let’s go baby’ and she’s like, ‘Well what does that mean?’” Grant recalled, sharing how he delivered the thrilling news to Andrea. “I was like, ‘We’re going!’”
To commemorate the pivotal moment in their lives, Andrea wears a bracelet that says “LET’S GO BABY!!!” to this day.
Grant made his decision in a difficult time. He had recently moved away from his family to Texas, ended a relationship, and had a new business fail, leading to severe depression.
“I just felt worthless as a man and felt alone, unloved because I wasn’t talking to anybody about this,” An emotional Grant shared. “I just went into isolation. And then by the end of January, I started having suicidal thoughts and thought about taking my own life.” He confessed.
“And I’m just so grateful that I didn’t, because 10 months later, little Brooks needed me to be there. And if I hadn’t been there, I don’t know if he would have made it,” Grant said.
As Grant waited for the organ transplant to begin, a nurse asked him to think of something that makes him really happy before he succumbs to sleep.
“I told her, ‘My happy thought would be just seeing Brooks running around again and being a happy kid, the one we all knew him to be, who brings so much joy into our lives.’”
Of course, Grant’s happy thought has translated into reality. Brooks has recovered and is once again, a vibrant kid full of energy.
“They always say kids are resilient.” Andrea happily shared. “He would have these bulging stitches in his belly, and he’s like jumping over the couch like nothing’s going on.”
“Once we came home, he just blossomed into this new little boy,” Andrea added,
“I’ve struggled a lot in my life. But for the first time, throughout this process, it felt like it gave me a purpose. I’ll forever be grateful for that.” A tearful Grant shared how his organ donation changed his life.
“There’s always going to be a special bond between him and Brooks now.” The grateful mom said. “He gave us the gift of life, and I don’t know how you ever thank anyone enough for that.”
“I kind of jokingly say that someday I’m going to write a book, and in the front, I’m going to write ‘Dedicated to Brooks, people said I saved your life that night in November, but in reality you saved mine.’”
Grant may have saved Brooks from death, but Brooks certainly gave his life a sense of purpose, making it more meaningful than ever.
Watch the video below to find out how an organ donation saved Brooks from death, and Grant from a dark time in his life.