HOUSTON (KTRK) – Thanks to a first of its kind transplant procedure, a Texas baby born with missing areas of skin can now be held by his family.
Over the summer, Ja’bari Gray received life-saving treatment at Texas Children’s Hospital. He was born weighing just 3 pounds on New Year’s Day, and he was missing large areas of skin.
“From the neck down, from the front and back, nothing – there was no skin and even parts of his legs. He had no skin,” said Ja’bari’s mother, Priscilla Maldonado.
Thanks to the transplant, the 10-month-old now has skin covering 100 percent of his body, allowing his mother to finally kiss her baby boy.
“Now, you can kiss him, touch him, do all that stuff. He got to wear his first set of clothes now, so he’s getting there,” Maldonado said.
Ja’bari’s skin was grown inside a Boston lab that specializes in burn victims. His case was a first.
“That was the first transplant ever that’s been done in his situation and on a baby his age,” his mother said.
Maldonado recalls the first time she got to embrace her son skin-to-skin, 10 months after he was born.
“It was heartwarming because he was crying when he was laying down, so as soon as I picked him up and had the skin-to-skin contact and put him on my chest, he just stopped crying,” she said.
Ja’bari’s siblings are also getting in on the love. His big brother Jaden held him for two hours Wednesday.
Given little chance at birth by doctors, Ja’bari now weighs nearly 18 pounds. He is off his pain medication and breathing on his own.
“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. We never know what it is until the future,” Maldonado said.
Ja’bari’s mother admits he still has a long road to recovery, including corrections to several areas that have fused. After two surgeries to open his eyelids, they reclosed. Both arms, his right hand, right foot and neck will all require surgery to separate them.
Maldonado is staying positive, though, celebrating each infant milestone. She says Ja’bari’s name means “fighter” or “warrior,” and that’s exactly what he is.
“Making coo sounds that normal babies would do, he’s interacting with us. Even though he can’t see us and stuff, he’s still interacting,” she said.
Doctors told Maldonado only two other babies like Ja’bari have been born in the U.S., and neither of them survived.
The mother says there were no signs of anything wrong during her pregnancy, and they only discovered the abnormalities after Ja’bari was born.