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10-month-old baby gets life-saving liver transplant from a stranger living 2,000 miles away

Man donates part of his liver to baby boy
Complete stranger's generosity helps save a baby's life 03:11

A California couple is celebrating the greatest gift they can imagine over Christmas — a healthy baby, thanks to the kindness of an organ donor living thousands of miles away. 

Young parents Chad and Aileen Cooper came face to face with Michael Speck via Zoom, CBS News Chris Martinez reports, in their first emotional meeting with the selfless stranger.

"There's no words that can describe how thankful we are to you Michael, you saved our son's life," Aileen Cooper said on the video call.

"It's my honor," Speck told her.

Speck had donated part of his liver to 10-month-old Jacob Cooper. Jacob was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver and bile ducts that can be deadly. 

"Your son is born with an issue, and then somebody from across the country you have never met shows up to save his life," dad Chad Cooper said.

Dr. Yuri Genyk, who works at Children's Hospital Los Angeles where Jacob had his surgery, said the baby needed a liver transplant to survive.

"He was getting progressively sicker," said Genyk. "He was hospitalized with infection prior to  the transplant, he was critically ill."

Jacob's dad immediately volunteered to be a donor, but testing revealed a diagnosis of his own.

"In the CT scan and MRI we found a mass near your pelvis, and this needs to be seen right away," he recalled the doctors telling him.

With Chad and Aileen Cooper both unsuitable donors, doctors began the search for another live donor — who they found weeks later, nearly 2,000 miles away in Ohio.

The donor was 64-year-old Michael Speck.   

Speck is both a father and a grandfather, and was already an organ donor having previously given a kidney to a minister years earlier. 

"The surgeon told me it was a little 10-month-old baby," Speck said. "When I found that out I just burst out crying."

In October — the middle of the coronavirus pandemic — Speck traveled to Los Angeles for the transplant. It was a complete success.

Speck now hopes others follow his example. 

"There's so many people out there that can do the same thing I did," he said.

Speaking to Chad and Aileen Cooper on Zoom, Speck said, "To be able to donate to a child… it's a miracle."

Aileen and Chad told Speck that he was the miracle. 

"It's all worthwhile seeing you guys," he answered.

And in November, Jacob's dad Chad Cooper underwent surgery to remove his mass, a benign tumor. Both he and his son are doing well.

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