In 2009, Steve Jobs was dying. And so the man Jobs had entrusted with everything he had built at Apple offered to save his life.
According to a new book about the late Apple CEO, co-written by Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli and veteran reporter Brent Schlender, Tim Cook, the man who would eventually take over the technology empire, learned that he was a match for Jobs’s rare blood type.
By that time, Jobs was in desperate need of a liver transplant — one of the many serious consequences of his years-long battle with pancreatic cancer. And after getting his own blood tested, Cook believed that he had the solution: He would donate a portion of his own liver to Jobs, according to the book:
He started doing research, and learned that it is possible to transfer a portion of a living person’s liver to someone in need of a transplant. About 6,000 living-donor transplants are performed every year in the United States, and the rate of success for both donor and recipient is high. The liver is a regenerative organ. The portion transplanted into the recipient will grow to a functional size, and the portion of the liver that the donor gives up will also grow back.
But it wouldn’t be that easy. Not because the procedure was too difficult, or because his own health couldn’t withstand the surgery — but because Jobs refused.
“I said, ‘Steve, I’m perfectly healthy, I’ve been checked out. Here’s the medical report. I can do this and I’m not putting myself at risk, I’ll be fine,’” Cook recalled. “And he doesn’t think about it.”
“He cut me off at the legs, almost before the words were out of my mouth,” Cook added, according to the book. “‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ll never let you do that. I’ll never do that.’”
Jobs would eventually get a liver transplant that same year. Two years later, shortly before he lost his battle with cancer, Jobs left Cook in charge of the company.
Cook said the incident provided a moment of clarity about Jobs’s character.
“Somebody that’s selfish doesn’t reply like that,” Cook said. “I mean, here’s a guy, he’s dying, he’s very close to death because of his liver issue, and here’s someone healthy offering a way out.”
“It was not, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ It was not, ‘I’ll think about it.’ It was not, ‘Oh, the condition I’m in . . .’ It was, ‘No, I’m not doing that!’” Cook added. “He kind of popped up in bed and said that. And this was during a time when things were just terrible. Steve only yelled at me four or five times during the 13 years I knew him, and this was one of them.”