March 16, 2022

NEW YORK -- A tiny baby from Queens is ready to return home after a life-saving liver transplant.

Her donor is a man from Stamford, who gave the gift of life to a stranger, but as CBS2's Tony Aiello reports, the donor and recipient are strangers no more.

Eight-month-old Ariany Perez is precious and beautiful, and she's alive today at Montefiore Medical Center because a stranger was willing to literally give a piece of himself.

"With each month, these babies can get sicker and sicker. We know that she had a terminal diagnosis without a transplant," said Dr. Nadia Ovchinsky.

Ariany's donor is John Rubino, a rare "double donor." He gave his left kidney to a stranger in 2019 and a piece of his liver to Ariany on March 2.

Marine veteran John Rubino donated a piece of his liver to 8-month-old Ariany Perez on March 2, 2022.CBS2

"Right now, my heart is smiling, and a lot of people ask me all the time, 'What do you get out of being a donor?' When you see a child as healthy as that, that's worth it right there," he said.

A small section of Rubino's liver was transplanted into Ariany.

"I think the prognosis is excellent. In that situation, where the baby is doing so well, more likely that the baby will be very well for a long, almost normal life. Maybe to take one pill a day," Montefiore transplant surgeon Dr. Dominique Jan said.

Esperanza Perez believes God had a plan for Rubino and Ariany.

"She's a miracle of life. I told everyone, she's a miracle of life. And she's a warrior," Perez said in Spanish.

Rubino is a warrior, too -- a Marine veteran who answered the call to give of himself. Mission accomplished.

Rubino told CBS2 giving part of his liver was much more taxing on his body than donating a kidney, but two weeks after surgery, he feels great. Within months, the liver will grow back and function normally.