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Inside Dateline: Meeting Seth

Rob Stafford:  I arrived in Darrington worried about saying the wrong thing to a boy with a terrible disease. I left wanting to spend more time with one of the wisest persons I've ever met.

June 28, 2006 |

A story about living (Rob Stafford, Dateline correspondent)

As I drove the long winding road into the small logging town of Darrington, Washington, I worried about the little boy I was about to profile. Seth Cook has progeria, a rare premature-aging disease that is terminal.  I thought about my own kids and how I would react to such a dire diagnosis. And I was concerned that if Seth sensed any apprehension on my part, I would hurt his feelings and that was the last thing I wanted to do.     

Then I met Seth and he was not the boy I expected.  Yes, like all children with progeria, he is frail and tiny. Seth stands just three feet tall and weighs only 25 pounds —the size of an average 2 or 3-year-old. But as soon as he spoke, I was struck by his confidence, strength and above all his optimism. Right away, he put me at ease — and I'm supposed to be the one making him feel comfortable. Soon Seth was showing me around town where it's clear he's the smallest big man on campus. Everyone knows Seth.

We played with his dog in the park, took a stroll through the woods and he whopped me at one of his favorite video games.  Seth loves to laugh and he laughs a lot. I wondered how could anyone facing Seth's future be so happy? Perhaps, I thought, his parents had sheltered him from the reality of his fate. Actually, I found that Patti and Kyle Cook have been very honest with their son. The Cooks have a strong faith and have given their son a double dose of unconditional love that seems to have prepared him for everything.

I didn't want to ask Seth about death, but he brought it up. "I can't wait to get to heaven," he said as though it were the coolest summer camp a kid could imagine. "What do you think heaven is like?" I asked. Seth replied, "I'm gonna go fishing with the Lord. Fishing for Swedish Fish and hunting Gummy Bears and chocolate rabbits. It's guaranteed that you catch at least 10 fish a day." But enough talking, Seth wanted to play some more so we did. Seth is a boy in a hurry and he doesn't waste a second.  

While you might think Seth's story is about dying — it's really all about living and making the most of the life you've been given. I arrived in Darrington worried about saying the wrong thing to a boy with a terrible disease and left wanting to spend more time with one of the wisest persons I've ever met.

"The Remarkable Seth Cook" airs Dateline Sunday, July 2, 7 p.m. Click here to learn more about show, Seth, and progeria.


Viewer responses to the show

I would like to thank you for introducing me to the most beautiful human being I have ever known. I cannot put into words the impact your piece made on my life, or the impact Seth made I should say. Thank you again for the inspiration and the reality check. —Kelly Bain, Los Angeles,California

Someday soon, my husband and I hope to have our first child. If we are fortunate enough to share our lives with someone half as vibrant and remarkable as Seth is, we will be truly blessed.—Karen Sacramento, California

Thank you for one of the most sensitive features I have seen offered up by media in the last 5 years. By presenting Seth and his parents in an honest light you have captured the best part of Christian family values. You gave us a story without bathos. I am grateful to you for the gentle touch in your story and the introduction to a child that is truly as wise as you thought. —Clay Basham, Kansas City, Mo.

This story about Seth Cook touched my heart so much I can’t get him out of my thoughts. He is an astonishing young man. His joy in everything is so unbelievable. His parents have done a super job in giving him self confidence and wisdom. Thank you for this wonderful story and my prayers are with Seth and his family. —CJ, Iowa

I was so touched by this story. I am always complaining about getting older and I am only 35!! Watching this documentary on Seth reminded me what is really important in life. Love and every day is truly a gift. —Dawn Hakanson, Boca Raton, Fla.

My husband and I watched the recent show about Seth Cook. This boy has contagious laugh :) Our favorite part was when the family was playing monopoly and he was collecting his money. We could not help but cry when we first saw him but then were in awe once he began to talk. He was a just a “normal” kid or maybe even more upbeat than the average teen. What an inspiring story! We will now pray for Seth and the other child with progeria. Thank you for helping us realize life is so fragile. —Brian and Crystal Walls, Kingsburg, Calif.

I have never responded to a television show before but this one deeply touched me. What an amazing family who is truly trusting His (the Lord’s) heart. What a testimony of faith and love they have shared. —Rebecca Kelly, Elkhart, IN

Just a wonderful story that does touch one. Seth is a beautiful young man and we all wish him the very best July birthday. Love to him and his family. —John/Julie

Mr Stafford presented this story PERFECTLY. Seth was presented with dignity not pity, and I couldn’t help watching it over and over again. I have a new hero- and at 3feet tall and 25 pounds- no one will ever be larger to me! Thank you for telling Seth’s story. —Cindy Valentine, Tigard, Oregon

What a dear and precious young man. How can we send a card to Seth? He and his parents truly are remarkable! —Paul and Marian Bonney, Calif.

Rob: I am 42 years old, I just wanted to say that The Remarkable Seth Cook report, is the most extraordinary, inspiring and great story ever told, thank you, for giving us viewers this kind of gifts. I just loved Seth, he is an inspiration, a blessing, an angel. —Rita Riepele, Guatemala City, Central America

I thought that this was an excellent story. Very encouraging and a worthwhile story to share. Thank you for sharing it. —Syreeta, California

We have a cousin in Ontario (Devin) with progeria and this program was touching. They are easy kids to love, very special in their own ways. Thanks. —Jen, Victoria BC, Canada

Rob’s report with Seth was amazing. This is such a special, beautiful family and Seth is a very outstanding boy. He truly touched my heart. Please do follow-up stories on Seth and his family. Thank you so much for such a heart-warming story.—Pat Stringfield, Longview, Texas

I would like to let Seth know that people like him ARE special to the Lord. Yes, he is here for a purpose we all are. Here to serve the Lord, to tell others about Jesus, to make a difference. People like him with so much faith,wisdom, love, confidence touch other lives. Thank you for being a part of mine. We love you, too, and because of you, people will realize that God is here for us all. God bless you  —Sylv, New Mexico

I never miss a Dateline program. I was not sure I wanted to watch the one with Seth Cook. I was afraid of my own reaction about how he looked. I could not change the channel, I had to see what he was going through. To my surprise, it was everything i did not expect. It was such a wonderful,loving and brave family. I immediately fell in love with Seth and his parents. They are one of a kind. I cried through out the program, praying a cure would not be far away for him. Please have an update on Seth Cook. I will think of him often. Thank you Dateline for another fantastic story! —Dawn Snow, Castro Valley, Calif.