MMA Fighter Marcus Kowal Is Donating Toddler Son's Organs: 'Two People Are Going to Live Because of Our Baby'
"Two people are going to live because of our baby," Kowal tells PEOPLE of the decision to donate son Liam's organs after an alleged drunk driving crash
On Sunday, moments after making the heartbreaking decision to remove their 15-month-old son, Liam, from life support, MMA fighter Marcus Kowal and his wife, Mishel Eder, resolved to turn the unthinkable tragedy into life-saving hope for others.
After several tests led doctors at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles to declare Liam brain dead, following his injuries in an alleged drunk driving crash, Eder and Kowal decided to donate their son’s organs so that others could get a second chance at survival,
“Two people are going to live because of our baby,” Kowal tells PEOPLE. His son’s funeral will be Monday.
But Kowal says that because Liam’s injuries were so extensive, some of his tiny organs were too damaged to be transplanted.
“It was an obvious decision for us,” Kowal explains of the choice to donate.
He says he and his wife are both registered organ donors: “In this day and age, not to be a donor is insanity, especially when there is such a desperate need for donors.”
On Saturday, Liam was in his stroller and out for a walk with his 15-year-old aunt when a car struck them as they tried to cross a street, according to investigators.
Responding officers found both victims in the street near the crosswalk. The teen suffered leg injuries while Liam was found “pulseless and not breathing.”
Authorities allege the driver of the vehicle, 72-year-old Donna Marie Higgins, attempted to flee the scene but was stopped by several witnesses.
After allegedly failing a field sobriety test, Higgins was charged with driving under the influence, felony hit-and-run and felony drunk driving, authorities said. An additional manslaughter charge was filed against her on Wednesday, according to police.
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Higgins was released after posting a $100,000 bail. It was unclear whether she has entered a plea or hired an attorney.
Soon after opting to have their son’s organs donated for others, Kowal took to social media, announcing the couple’s heart-wrenching decision and calling on potential recipients to get in touch.
“We got hundreds of messages from all around the world, from desperate parents, sending in pictures of their children who needed organs,” Kowal tells PEOPLE. “It was overwhelming.”
“Two people have received Liam’s organs,” the grieving father reveals. “His heart is being donated to an infant girl, and that transplant will be happening within the next few days. A woman has received his kidneys.
“We had two matches we developed through social media – one, for his intestines, and a 6-year-old girl was going to get his liver. But the organs weren’t working, so they couldn’t use them.”
Liam’s lungs have also been donated and will aid in research on lung diseases, Kowal says.
“Two people are going to live because of him, and who knows how many people will be helped because of his lungs,” Kowal says. “We are hoping people will see our story and sign up as organ donors.”
Since Saturday’s fatal crash, Kowal says dozens of his fans have written to him, vowing to never drink and drive again.
“This one guy told me he would have four or five drinks and still drive home, but that what happened to Liam has inspired him to never do that again,” the fighter says. “He has a big birthday coming up and says anyone at his party will not be allowed to drive home if they were drinking.”
As they continue to mourn and heal from their son’s death, Kowal and Eder have committed themselves to fighting the nation’s “ineffective” drunk driving laws and promise to advocate for life-saving legislation.
When asked what he would say to Higgins, the alleged drunk driver, Kowal tells PEOPLE he will get his chance during her upcoming trial – and he can’t wait.
“But when it comes to this woman, I don’t feel anything. I feel nothing towards her,” he says. “I’ve surprised myself, but I don’t care about her. I just want to make sure she can never drive a car again, and I want her to spend the rest of her life in jail. Given her age, she probably will.
“I want her to feel my pain – to know what she’s putting us through – and that’s why I have asked to speak during the trial.”