Early in the morning of September 4th, Jeff Diederich came home from his job as a firefighter. He was excited because he had a feeling his wife Heather might be pregnant.
Sure enough, he was right and the couple celebrated the joyous news. They were going to be parents a second time. That's when Jeff thought he should wake up his year old son Aidan.
The previous weekend was Aidan's first birthday and the little guy was probably exhausted from all of the merry making. But when Jeff walked into Aidan's room he couldn't believe what he saw. "I thought I saw my son dead."
Aidan, the picture of health and energy, was strangely still in his crib. He was an ashen gray color and yellowed from jaundice.
Heather and Jeff rushed him to the hospital and had no idea what could have made him this sick.
When they got to the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital they were hit with unbelievable news. Aidan's liver was failing and he needed a transplant.
His doctors placed him on the National Organ Donor waiting list, but they weren't sure Aidan would survive long enough for a donor liver to be delivered. The next option was a living donor.
Jeff began going through the testing so he could give Aidan a portion of his liver. Heather couldn't donate because she was pregnant.
The family learned the risks involved and asked Jeff to change his mind. If something went wrong he would leave Heather alone with two small children.
A dozen other family and friends volunteered to take Jeff's place. Heather and Jeff said they couldn't accept anyone who had children, because of the risks involved.
The list became narrower and at the end of it was Aidan's Uncle, Jeff Shoemaker.
Jeff Shoemaker always wanted to help people. He just started taking classes to become a paramedic. He would save his first life before he even got on the job.
The Cleveland Clinic had performed more than 30 living donor liver transplants since 1999, but only four were adult to child. Never had they done one in an emergency. And in critical situations like Aidan's, the risk of death to the donor was 40 percent.
There was a very good chance Jeff Shoemaker could save Aidan, but he risked losing his own life.
Jeff, the uncle, recalls, "after seeing him laying there with all the tubes and hoses, cables and wires I think all my fears went away. My life was worth giving to save his, and if that's what it took, I was fine with that."
Six months later, Jeff and Aidan are recovered.
Jeff restarted his paramedic training and Aidan is a normal 17 month old, except for the medical reminders. He requires eight different medicines fourteen times a day.
Heather and husband Jeff say they are overwhelmed with gratitude for Uncle Jeff's gift. "I always knew he would do something good but you can't fathom anyone doing this. And for him to do this, there's no words." Heather says.
Jeff gave Aidan 20% of his liver. Aidan's new liver shrunk to fit his little body and Jeff's regenerated to its full size.
Jeff will require annual visits to the doctor for the rest of his life. Aidan's immune system is weakened and his parents are vigilant at keeping him away from potential germs.
The family still has no idea why Aidan's liver failed. If it's found to be a genetic disorder, Aidan's baby sibling may have a 25% chance of having the same problem.
Join Aidan and his family as they participate in the 2008 Liver Walk on September 6th at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo.
If you'd like to donate to the Diederich-Shoemaker Liver Fund you may do so at any Key Bank branch. Portions of proceeds go to help others with liver disease.
Watch Monica's story by clicking on video. Learn more about liver disease by clicking on links.