GH Spencer Courtney sean smith

Sean Smith/JPI

It was on February 21, 2006, that Courtney Matthews made the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring son Spencer into the world.

For years, General Hospital‘s Courtney Matthews had dreamed of having a child to call her very own. During her marriage to half brother Sonny Corinthos’ best friend, Jason Morgan, she suffered a miscarriage which had supposedly left her unable to carry a baby to term. A few years later, she and new husband Jasper Jacks attempted to have a baby using Elizabeth Webber as a surrogate, only to have that pregnancy end in a miscarriage as well.

More: Maurice Benard’s birthday gift to you

And then, just when it seemed all hope was lost, Courtney miraculously found herself expecting. Alas, the circumstances were less than ideal, given that though still married to Jax, she’d had an affair with — and fallen hard for — Nikolas Cassadine. Despite two separate DNA tests seemingly proving Jax to be the father, Nikolas and Courtney vowed that they would be together and fight to raise the child as their own.

But when a deadly encephalitis outbreak spread like wildfire through Port Charles, both Nikolas and Courtney fell ill and had to be hospitalized. Worse, the mother-to-be was told that unless she had a C-section immediately — despite her due date being weeks away — there was every chance she would pass the potentially deadly virus on to her child.

More: General Hospital star shares “our little secret”

Moments after having agreed to marry Nikolas, Courtney prepared to bring the baby she believed to be Jax’s into the world. Jax, still desperately in love with the woman whose heart now belonged to another, begged her to reconsider, knowing there was a strong possibility that she might not survive the operation.

“I’m a mother, Jax,” Courtney said, her voice growing weaker by the moment. “I will do whatever it takes to give this baby the best possible chance.”

Somehow, both mother and child survived the surgery, although it was uncertain if either would survive. Summoning Jax to her side, Courtney informed him that she wanted to name the baby after his father… at which point, the Aussie made a shocking confession: He had tampered with both DNA tests, fearing what Nikolas’ grandmother, the legendarily evil Helena Cassadine, would do to the child.

More: Looks like Peter’s a goner… or is he?

Though shocked and angered, Courtney, perhaps aware that there was no time left for holding grudges, forgave Jax his transgression. Growing weaker by the moment, she asked to see Nikolas. But by the time he arrived, she could only summon up the strength to declare her love, slipping away before sharing with him that bond they’d forged would live on in their child.

It would be months before Nikolas would find out the truth about the baby, whom he would eventually reclaim and christen Spencer. The lies Jax had told would only serve to fuel Sonny’s hatred toward the man, while Spencer would hold a special place in his uncle’s heart. And when Mike Corbin, the father Sonny and Courtney shared, died following his long, difficult battle with Alzheimer’s, it was Courtney who took his hand and guided him into the hereafter.

More: Behind the scenes of GH star’s rad makeover

While we ponder what life might have been like for those Courtney left behind had she never actually departed, why not visit the gallery below in which we list more than a dozen General Hospital characters who we can’t help wishing had never been killed off.