Hours before 21-year-old Jed Parker was to undergo major surgery this April, his sister-in-law hung a small sign in his hospital room.
"There is no greater love than that of a man who would lay down his life for a friend," wrote Melissa Parker on the sign.
And she would know.
Jed was not undergoing surgery for his own health, but to save Melissa's 5-year-old son, Caelan.
Caelan's problems had surfaced just weeks before, as family gathered to celebrate a baby blessing. Caelan didn't feel well; his parents thought he had the flu.
Then Sister Parker noticed yellow in her son's eyes. With her husband, David, she drove Caelan straight to the emergency room. As the days progressed, the couple learned their son's liver was failing.
Within weeks, Caelan's situation became desperate; the child needed a liver transplant and didn't have time to wait for a donor.
The Parkers of the Atwater 1st Ward, Merced California Stake, were tested to be donors, each agreeing to give a portion of their own liver to Caelan. But Sister Parker had the wrong blood type and Brother Parker's liver was misshapen and unsuitable for donation.
With little time, they turned to Brother Parker's four brothers, even though finding live donors who are not parents is rare.
All agreed to be tested. But Jed Parker, who had returned in February from service in the Greece Athens Mission, stepped forward. He didn't have a job and wasn't yet in school. He didn't have a wife or children to be affected by his risk.
"It was easy for me to make the decision," Jed recalled. "Everyone else had other responsibilities to fulfill.
"I was just doing what I felt needed to be done."
Before the surgery doctors and other medical professionals tried to change Jed's mind. They told the Parkers it was unethical to accept Jed's gift, that he could die from complications. They worried Jed had been pressured into his decision.
Finally Jed ended the discussion. "It doesn't matter how many different ways you tell me the risks," he said. "What should I do, watch my nephew die when I could save him? I don't care how many times you come in here, I am still going to do this."
On April 14, doctors at University of California San Francisco Hospital removed 25 percent of Jed's liver and gave it to Caelan. The child was within hours of death, they told the family.
Despite developing a blood clot, Jed's liver kept Caelan alive three additional weeks, long enough for a suitable donor liver to be located.
Today, thanks to Jed, Caelan is recovering. Brother and Sister Parker expect Caelan, who is currently living near the hospital for transitional care, to be home soon.
Sister Parker still can't talk about the day without crying. "I cannot express how much gratitude I have for Jed, how much of a hero he is to me," she said. "He is better than Superman. He is better than the world's best athlete."
Jed's mother, Brenda Parker, said "I think [Jed] really understands that he is a hero. He was the one in the family who was the best candidate. He was the youngest. He was in the best health. It fell on his shoulders."
Jed is moving forward. Last month he moved to Utah, where he plans to attend Utah Valley State College this fall and is searching for employment — a task much harder than he anticipated since he is restricted in his ability to lift or do other physical labor as a result of the liver donation.
He has no regrets. "I would have done it for any of my family," he said.
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