‘People all over came to help’: Louisville ‘snow baby,’ Michelle Schmitt, dies at 30

The family of Louisville's “snow baby,” Michelle Schmitt, remembers her life and the community that supported them.
Updated: May. 8, 2021 at 7:29 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For 27 years, people in Louisville knew Michelle Schmitt-Cobble as the “snow baby,” but she will always be “little sister” to Ashley Schmitt.

“She was passionate, caring and loving to everyone, she treated everyone equally,” Ashley said. “We went through a lot with each other growing up and we leaned on each other growing up because we both knew what we were going through… she wanted to help other people because we’ve had so many people help us.”

Michelle, 30, died Friday after suffering a stomach aneurysm. Ashley told WAVE 3 News both sisters were not expected to live past three as they were diagnosed with a congenital liver disease.

“The fact that we made it to our 30s, that we were able to get our driver’s license, go to prom, do the thing that people kind of take for granted because they know they’re going to do them... with us, we never even dreamed of reaching 16-years-old,” she said.

For more than two years the Schmitt family waited for a life-saving liver transplant. On January 17, 1994, when Michelle was three, they got the call a donor liver was available in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Always a call you’re happy to get but everything was shut down, no one could go anywhere,” Ashley said.

Louisville woke up to more than a foot of snow and below freezing temperatures that day, making travel difficult; the donor liver would only be viable for a few hours.

After a family friend called a local radio station to broadcast a call for help, strangers cleared a parking lot at Southeast Christian Church, then located on Hikes Lane, for a helicopter to land and take Michelle to the airport. In Omaha, the donor liver was successfully transplanted and Michelle was dubbed the ‘snow baby.’

“People from the neighborhoods came, got their shovels and that just means a lot that you care about someone you don’t even know to help save their life, and get her a life saving transplant,” Ashley said. “They allowed us 27 more years with her, so she wouldn’t have even been here to make all those memories with us if it wasn’t for all of them, so thank you.”

After her liver transplant, Ashley saw Michelle graduate from Spalding University, get married and start her career in the medical field working with children.

“She even worked with some of out pediatricians that we had throughout the years, which was full circle, she really enjoyed just helping others and giving back the community,” she said.

In 2014, Michelle spoke to WAVE 3 News about her life 20 years after the Louisville community rallied to help her.

“People take life for granted and I don’t,” she said. “It [snow] just reminds me of how lucky I am and I’m blessed to be here.”

In 2011, Michelle received a kidney transplant from a close friend and did not anticipate any further surgeries.

Michelle is survived by her husband, father and sister.

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