This uncle’s liver donation saved his nephew’s life, it also dramatically changed his own

Parents will do everything to keep their children safe and healthy. So imagine how shaken Matt and Andrea Campbell were when they found out that Matt was not an eligible donor for their 1-year-old son, Brooks, who was in dire need of an organ donation. 

Fortunately, Andrea’s younger brother, Grant, was more than willing to be the donor for his nephew, saving both of their lives. Today, Brooks is an energetic 2-years-old kid. 

The Campbell family, happily posing for a photo.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

In an interview, Matt and Andrea talked about Grant’s inspiring selfless act and their one-of-a-kind story. 

The family was outside taking photos for their Christmas cards, and as Andrea looked at the pictures, she noticed how her 17-month-old son looked a little yellow. The following morning, Brooks threw up after breakfast, raising concern. The alerted parents then took their child to the doctor. 

Andrea and Matt, posing for their Christmas card photo together with 17-month old Brooks.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“Structurally, his liver looked fine.” Andrea shared. “But his liver numbers and his labs were astoundingly high.” 

As it turned out, Brook was suffering from acute liver failure, possibly triggered by a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). It is a very common, contagious virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract. 

The worried parents were then informed by the GI doctor that they would be transferred to Cleveland Clinic in case Brooks needs a liver transplant. 

The then 17-month-old Brooks underwent a series of tests to determine his condition.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“It was like, just a ton of bricks,” Andrea said, describing how she felt. “I mean, where did this come from?”

“We didn’t know what caused the liver failure (at the time), but the situation was really, really urgent,” says Dr Koji Hashimoto, the director of the living donor liver transplantation program at Cleveland Clinic. “When he got here, he didn’t have much liver function left. And if you lose the liver function completely, 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.

Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“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. 

Brooks together with his Dad, Matt. The then 17-month-old child needs an organ donation to survive.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“That was tough to hear,” The father shared. “I was mentally prepared to jump right in and help Brooks. Now, we had to figure out how we’re going to approach this.”

When the parents found out that they were both ineligible, their family, including Andrea’s brother, Grant who had flown from Texas, was there. 

“Our little guy was dying, and I realized, ‘I’m up.’” Grant recalled. “When I came here from Austin, I felt like it was for a reason. And I started to think, ‘this is that reason. I’m supposed to be the donor.’”

Brooks with his Uncle Grant, who found meaning in life after undergoing an organ donation for his nephew.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

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

Grant together with the relieved parents, strike for a photo to commemorate this Grant's organ donation
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“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.

Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“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.”

Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“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.” 

Grant and Brooks, celebrating the anniversary of their organ transplant.
Youtube | Cleveland Clinic

“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.

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