PITTSBURGH - A young mother felt compelled to go under the knife to help a man she never met.
To hear Maggie Dominick tell it, there was never another option that would have satisfied her. She was teaching in the Jeannette School District and met a woman named Faith Crooks. Faith helped Dominick out during the day in her classroom, and they became friends. Sometimes, they talked about their families.
Faith started telling Dominick about her husband's health problems, and eventually found out he had end-stage liver cancer. That touched something within Maggie.
"I couldn't stand every day watching her struggle with that," Dominick told Channel 11.
That's the moment two families changed forever. Without telling Faith what she was doing, Dominick applied to be a liver donor for Jim Crooks. She was a match. She got to call Faith and Jim and deliver the good news herself.
"I don't think we really knew what to say," Dominick recalled.
"When I first met you, I didn't know what to say," Jim Crooks agreed. "I really didn't."
Without Dominick's decision, Jim would have waited a long time for a transplant. He was still low on the donor transplant list. Channel 11 spoke to the chief of transplant at UPMC.
"It would have likely been several years before he got to the top of the list," said Dr. Abhi Humar.
That's why Humar recommended a living donor search.
"Often people are told that living donor transplant is something that should be saved as a last resort," said Humar. "That's really the opposite."
Dominick said her meetings with the doctors at UPMC left her feeling confident about the invasive surgery.
"I never once worried," she said. "I knew that I was in great hands."
Right around Jim's birthday in December, they both got ready for the intensive surgery. Jim said he had one request before heading into his operation.
"I said make sure when I wake up, you tell me that she's OK," he told Channel 11.
They got adjoining rooms after the surgery, and now are taking recovery day by day together with frequent texts and check-ins. Jim said he spends every day thanking Dominick for what she did.
"We have a lot of years now, because of what she unselfishly did," he said.
Humar says there are programs to help make the process as easy as possible for living donors, so if you have concerns about taking time off from work and missing out on wages, it is worth talking to doctors to see if you can get help.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.