Ja’bari Gray is one heck of a fighter — just ask his parents, Priscilla Maldonado and Marvin Gray.
Ten months after he was born at just 3 lbs. with a majority of his skin missing, Ja’bari is now on his way to recovery following a successful skin transplant from the doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
With skin covering his midsection, arms, and neck, Ja’bari is not only able to wear clothing now, but he’s also been able to have skin-to-skin contact with his mother and receive kisses — something Maldonado says she has waited nearly a year to do.
“It was heartwarming because he was crying when he was laying down, but as soon as I picked him up and had the skin-to-skin contact and put him on my chest, he just stopped crying,” Maldonado told ABC 13 in a recent interview.
“Now you can kiss him, touch him, do all that stuff,” she added to the outlet of her baby who is now weighs nearly 18 lbs, is off pain medications and breathing on his own. “He got to wear his first set of clothes now, so he’s getting there.”
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Ja’bari’s journey has been far from easy, according to his mother who has documented his progress on a GoFundMe page.
The baby had tested well through the pregnancy until an ultrasound at 37 weeks showed that he wasn’t gaining weight and his heart rate had dropped, which led doctors to perform an emergency C-section.
Ja’bari — whose name aptly means “fighter and warrior” — came into the world on Jan. 1 “completely silent,” Maldonado previously told the San Antonio Express-News, a shock compared to the births of her first two children.
With skin only on his head, face and parts of his legs and arms, doctors were unsure if Ja’bari would survive and suggested that Maldonado “pull the plug.”
Despite the fact that his eyes were fused shut, he required breathing assistance and needed to take constant pain medication, Maldonado refused to end her little boy’s life.
“He literally from the neck down, from the front and back nothing, there was no skin and even parts of his legs, he had no skin,” Maldonado told ABC 13. “If it wasn’t his purpose to be here, he would have been gone from birth or even before birth, so he does have a purpose in this world and we never know what it is until the future.”
RELATED: Baby Born Without Skin Still a Mystery to Doctors 7 Months After His Birth
Over the last 10 months, Ja’bari’s condition has steadily improved thanks to extensive skin graft surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital. Doctors first started covering his body with skin grown in a lab, from cells taken from the back of his ear.
His case was a milestone achievement for the medical team, according to Maldonado, who told ABC 13 that it “was the first transplant ever that’s been done in his situation and on a baby his age.”
But doctors still do not know what caused him to be born without skin. They originally thought that he may have epidermolysis bullosa, a group of rare skin disorders that causes fragile skin that blisters, but Maldonado and her husband underwent genetic testing and found they were not carriers for the condition.
His recovery also hasn’t been without setbacks. The baby already has undergone two surgeries to open his eyelids, but they’ve fused shut both times, prompting doctors to tell Maldonado that they do not want to “mess with his eyes anymore.”
Moving forward, Ja’bari will have to undergo more surgeries to separate his arms, right hand, right foot and neck.
Despite not having concrete answers, Maldonado has continued to stay positive and watch her little boy gradually hit all of his infant milestones.
“Making coo sounds that normal babies would do, he’s interacting with us,” Maldonado shared with ABC 13. “Even though he can’t see us and stuff, he’s still interacting.”
The family has also kept Ja’bari’s supporters updated on the GoFundMe page, with the most recent post revealing that he is scheduled to head home from the hospital on Oct. 27 — a day that Maldonado has waited for since January.
“We’re counting down,” she happily told the outlet. “18 more days!”
“God is so good, we went from doctors giving up on him in San Antonio to him about to come home,” Maldonado added on GoFundMe. “I wanna thank y’all all for y’all’s prayers and support and for never giving up on him.”
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