Parents will do anything to protect their children, and for Sean Kelley, "anything" was dropping 40 pounds so that he could donate part of his liver to save his 1-year-old son's life.
"You want to see them thrive. You want to see them happy. You want to give them every chance to succeed in life that you can. And this was an opportunity to do that," he said, in a story by ABC News.
The family suffers from a condition called Alagille syndrome
Sean Kelley lives in Western New York with his wife, Josie, and their seven kids — the two youngest are 1-year-old twins named Silas and Sawyer.
One of the twins, Sawyer, with a genetic condition called Alagille syndrome, which effects the several organs in the body but primarily the liver and the heart.
Two of the Kelleys' other children were also born with Alagille syndrome. According to ABC News, their son Tristan had open-heart surgery at just 3 months old. Their daughter Meara, whose heart and liver function properly, is able to live in relative comfort only suffering one of the condition's more minor symptoms, itchy skin.
For Sawyer, immediate attention was needed. Doctors said without a liver transplant, he would die.
"He needed a liver transplant because his liver had to compensate," said Dr. George Mazariegos, chief of pediatric transplantation at UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. "Even at this early age, just over a year old, he really could not survive more than a month without a liver transplant."
This dad lost 40 pounds to save his son's life: 'It was pretty overwhelming' | GMA Digital youtu.be
The dad said his decision to help was a 'no-brainer'
The family immediately began working through the hospital to look for a donor, but before long, Kelley realized that he may be able to help, as well.
"There's no reason that I can't get down to the weight that I need to see if could I could be a match," Kelley said. "I didn't know if I would be a match for Sawyer or not, but to even go through the evaluation process I had to get my weight down to a certain point."
Doctors told Kelley that in order to determine if he was a match for Sawyer, he would have to shed 40 pounds. Kelley then began his weight loss endeavor in August 2019, and credits his wife for helping him achieve his goals.
"She kept telling me that if I kept eating right and exercising I would get to my ultimate goal, and it didn't matter if I lost 2 pounds this week or 3 the next, I just needed to keep working hard," he said. "I would drive her crazy because I would want to weigh myself every day and she would just say wait till the end of the week."
Finally, just a few months later, Kelley received the confirmation he had been working toward: He was a match.
"It was pretty overwhelming ... I had to literally sit down and just kind of take a few minutes," he said.
On Dec. 19, doctors successfully performed the transplant surgery and baby Sawyer is now on his way to a full recovery.
"He will be much healthier, we believe, with this liver, and be able to withstand infections and withstand things that right now were really big setbacks for him," Mazariegos said.
Kelley told "Good Morning America" after the surgery that the decision to lose the weight and help his son was a "no-brainer."