Special to the Journal/Toula Joy photography
Matt Campbell, Grant Mosher, Brooks and Andrea Campbell on the first anniversary of the transplant.

HOMEWORTH — When Grant Mosher donated part of his liver to save his toddler nephew’s life, it not only gave 1-year-old Brooks a new lease on life, but it gave one to Grant as well.

In 2019, Brooks Campbell was your typical healthy and happy toddler — rambunctious and a bundle of energy and joy. On Nov. 6 while taking Christmas photos, his mother, Andrea Campbell, noticed that something was off.

“While lying in bed and looking at the photos we took that day, I thought he looked a little yellow,” she said. Her husband Matt tried to talk her off the edge and assured her that he looked fine, but her maternal gut instinct wouldn’t let it go.

Her fears soon became reality when little Brooks woke up late the next morning with a yellow tinge to the whites of his eyes.

Luckily, Brooks was able to be seen right away at his pediatrician, who confirmed Andrea’s suspicions of jaundice.

Andrea left the doctor’s office and broke down in tears.

“It just felt like this was bigger than we think it is, but at the same time, we thought they would just give us some medicine and that would be that,” she said.

From there, they took him to the Akron Children’s Hospital emergency room for a series of mostly inconclusive tests. The only thing the tests showed was that his liver numbers were high, and Brooks was admitted overnight to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for observation.

The next morning, Nov. 7, Matt and Andrea were sat down and told that Brooks was going to be transported to the Cleveland Clinic in case he needed a liver transplant.

One of the first phone calls that Andrea made was to her parents, who were in Texas visiting her brother, Grant.

“I get a phone call from my dad and I thought he was just excited to talk to me about the day ahead,” Grant said. “But he just kind of whimpered on the other side of the phone and said, ‘Grant, it’s Brooksie.”

Grant and his parents were on a plane to Cleveland later that afternoon and drove straight to the hospital to see “Brooksie.”

“He was already in the ICU at the point, so I saw this little guy in bed hooked up to these machines and wires, and the last time that I saw him he was just this little kid, just full of energy, so it was pretty startling,” he said.

The week that followed was a roller coaster ride of emotions for the entire family. Some days a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of dropping numbers, only to vanish when they rose once again during a blood test six hours later. At moments there was hope that he wouldn’t even need a transplant at all. The ups and downs during that week were physically and emotionally exhausting. During every blood test, every six hours, they held their breath and waited to see whether it was good or bad news, Grant said.

Brooks was placed on the transplant list and listed as status 1A — urgent need. Andrea found out later that the status of 1A is reserved for those who will die within a few days without a transplant.

During this time, Matt endured six total hours of testing to see if he could be a donor to his son. Andrea was 15 weeks pregnant and was unable to be a donor. Testing revealed that Matt, and other members of the family and potential donors, had a blood clotting disorder that made him ineligible to be a donor. Their hearts all sank at the devastating news and any option of saving their son seemed to be out of reach, until Grant announced that he would do it.

Grant quickly did everything he could to convince the doctors to let him donate, but without any way to confirm his blood type, they hesitated. Grant jumped through every hoop and called every place he could think of that might have it on record, including the Salem Regional Medical Center where he was born.

“He was batting down every door that he could just so someone would take him, and seriously, God bless him for fighting so hard during that process because they finally accepted him as a match,” Andrea said.

After it was confirmed that he was a match, the 24 hours of even more uncertainty and testing began and eventually he was allowed to donate.

On Nov. 13, 2019, Brooks and Grant began to prep for surgery. In yet another act of selflessness, Grant chose to be alone during his final moments before surgery so that his parents and sister could be with Brooks before he went under. Thankfully, the entire family was able to see Brooks off to surgery and still make it to Grant’s room right before he went into the operating room.

Brooks and Grant went into surgery in side-by-side rooms, and Grant still remembers the last thing he thought of before he went under.

“The last thing they told me before I went to sleep was to think of a happy thought, and I thought of little Brooks running around and just being a happy kid again, and before I know it, I’m in recovery,” he said.

The surgery was a success, and both came out stronger than ever — for Grant, it was an emotional strength rather than a physical one.

Originally from Salem, Grant moved to Austin, Texas just 10 months before the transplant. He felt isolated and struggled to make connections with new people, he recently ended a relationship, and his business was failing, and soon he was struggling with severe depression.

“I just felt alone and unloved, and when you feel like that, it’s easy to spiral. ‘Why can’t you make friends? Why can’t you make this business work? What’s wrong with you?’ And just before my 28th birthday in January, I started having suicidal thoughts.”

Grant was struggling to find his purpose, and he found it while becoming Brooks’ hero.

“If that isn’t the coolest comeback story for me, I don’t know what is. It was such an affirmation that you know, I’m here for a reason. We all have a purpose,” he said.

Now, Grant has found even more purpose in being a mental health advocate for men. He founded Guy Talk Co. in January 2020, an organization set out to reduce the male suicide rate by creating a supportive community for men.

Now, happy and healthy 2-years-old Brooks and his “Uncle G” both have bright futures ahead of them with an unbreakable bond and matching scars to boot. Brooks is still closely monitored, especially for the autoimmune disorder that was discovered to be the cause of the liver failure.

Despite everything, Brooks appears to be your typical rambunctious 2-year-old, and the miracle of his life inspires those around him every day.

“I hope he knows how strong and brave he is. I hope he knows just how much of an impact he’s made on the world and me,” Grant said.

Both Andrea and Grant have learned not to sweat the small things, and Andrea has found appreciation for the things that normally would have annoyed her.

“I’ll see that my house is a mess, but I’m not bothered by it, because it means that he’s healthy enough to be playing and to be making it a mess,”

Andrea welcomed her second baby boy soon after Brooks’ recovery, and named him James, which is Grant’s first name. Her and Matt came to the decision while they were waiting for Brooks and Grant to come out of surgery, and they both couldn’t think of a better way to honor the man that saved their son’s life.

Baby James is just another reminder of the special place that Grant holds in the hearts of the entire Campbell family.

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