DECATUR, GA. - A family who feared their little boy wouldn't make it through the new year is celebrating a big milestone.
Baby A.J. is now turning 3, after undergoing a kidney transplant.
Thousands of you followed his story online, after the surgery was delayed - because his dad, who was a perfect match, was arrested for a parole violation.
In the end, another person ended up being the donor, but the family isn't focused on the past, but the future.
"I never thought he'd be looking at this day," A.J. Burgess' mom, Carmellia, said. 'But it's his first birthday with a kidney."
CATCH UP ON THE STORY
The 2-year-old boy, who has become known as "Baby AJ," was born without kidneys. A.J's father Anthony Dickerson was a perfect match to be a donor, and was scheduled to donate his left kidney, but he was blocked from doing so after he was arrested for violating his probation. Since then, family had been fighting to get A.J. the life-saving transplant.
"I'm going to whatever it takes to get my son a kidney," Dickerson said. "I appreciate the community for supporting us."
Thousands of people responded to A.J.'s story online, protesting Emory Healthcare's decision to delay the toddler's transplant.
"It went viral," Burgess said. "It started with a little Facebook post. I didn't know it was going to go nationwide. It was amazing to have that much support."
Emory Healthcare had been the focus of numerous demonstrations and prayer vigils over its denial of the kidney donation. Facing mounting pressure and criticism, Dr. Jonathan Lewin, the CEO of Emory Healthcare, apologized for what he called “a breakdown in communication” with the boy’s parents.
The statement was issued after Lewin met with Dickerson and Carmellia Burgess, along with their attorneys and other members of the community. It also followed A.J.'s hospitalization for an infection and pneumonia.
"It is our desire to continue to work with A.J.'s parents to work through this process," Lewins said. "We want a successful transplant for A.J. and we also want a positive outcome for his father or any other potential living donor."
The family ultimately received the call that A.J. would receive a transplant from a deceased donor, his birthday becoming a chance to celebrate the toddler's recovery and celebrate with the community that helped make the transplant a reality.
"We couldn't have done it without the community, our lawyers, and God, of course," Burgess said. "Even when he was going through his journey with getting the kidney, I said 'One day, I want to do a meet and greet with those who supported us, to come and meet him.'"
BECOMING AN DONOR
There are two types of organ donors, those who are living and those who are dead. For more information on signing up to be a donor, click here.
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