Over a year ago, MMA fighter Marcus Kowal’s life changed forever. His son, an adorable 15-month-old named Liam, was tragically killed by a drunk driver.
Now, the Swedish fighter and his wife, Mishel, opened up about life after the tragedy. They revealed what it's like to care for their new baby, 4-month-old Nico.
“He’s been a blessing, and he has really helped us on this healing journey,” Mishel said of little Nico during an interview on the show "The Doctors."
Kowal added: “It’s important for him to know that he’s his own person and he never feels that he lives in the shadow of his brother, but he’s proud of his older brother and knows of his older brother.”
Kowal revealed that life without Liam has been difficult. However, the couple says they've found comfort in the fact that Liam helped saved other's lives through organ donation.
They also hope Liam's example can help combat drunk driving. They started Liam’s Life Foundation, which raises awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.
“The reason why we chose Liam was it means ‘the people’s protector,’" Kowal explains. “When we named him—and this was not the way we had hoped for him to be a protector—but he’s already saved lives directly by donating his organs but also just from the people that reached out to us around the world pledging to never drink and drive again.”
He added, “His 15 months here on the planet has helped saved tons of lives.”
Last year, the family was in California when the tragedy took place. He was in his stroller, going for a walk with his 15-year-old aunt. While they were crossing the street, they were both hit.
Responding police officers found the two victims in the street near the crosswalk. While the teen suffered leg injuries, Liam was found “pulseless and not breathing.”
Liam was taken to UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Doctors there declared the toddler brain dead. He was removed from life support shortly after.
“This whole thing has been torture,” Kowal told PEOPLE at the time.
“To stand there, watching these doctors testing him, checking his pupils, his reflexes … to be there, hoping that there might be some kind of movement, so that he can remain on life support and have a fighting chance was agonizing.”
“You know the damage has been done, but you’re just hoping he will move slightly—make a small twitch,” Kowal says. “But he didn’t, and we just wanted to sit in a room and cry.”
73-year-old Donna Marie Higgins, who was driving the vehicle that hit Liam, pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter. According to the Loss Angeles Times, she was sentenced to six years in prison.
Kowal has chronicled the couple's healing processing since their loss, which included welcoming Nico into their family. Kowal announced the birth on Facebook in July, writing it as a special message to his late son.
“Today your little brother was born Liam. His name is Nico. Your name means ‘the people’s protector’. Your little brother’s name means ‘the people’s victory’.” Kowal wrote in the post, including a photo of Mishel holding the baby.
“He was born in the same room as you were, by the same doctor, who remembers you very much. He looks a lot like you but he has more hair. One day, when he’s old enough, he will learn about his older brother and he will be proud of you, just like I’m sure you will be proud of him. Your mommy is doing fine. Look after him, will you?”
Congratulations to the couple on their new baby, and prayers for their continued healing after the loss of their son.