He's been fighting since the day he was born, but things have finally gotten easier for AJ Burgess.
The toddler and his family made national headlines last month when the sick 2-year-old was denied an organ transplant from his father, even though the pair were a perfect match. AJ, who was born prematurely with no kidneys, spent the first 10 months of his life in an intensive care unit.
As he grew older, AJ relied on a dialysis machine to stay healthy, but it was clear to his parents that time was running out. "AJ's spirit is strong but his body is not,” his mother Carmellia wrote on a GoFundMe page raising money for the young boy's medical costs. But last month, an unexpected delay put the toddler's life in danger.
AJ was scheduled to receive a kidney transplant from his father, Anthony Dickerson, more than a month ago. But the Emory University Hospital delayed the procedure after Dickerson was arrested for a parole violation.
Despite being released the day of the surgery, Dickerson was told he would have to wait 90 days, to prove he was following his parole obligations, before the hospital would approve the transplant. AJ's parents worried that by that time it would be too late.
While the hospital has stood by their decision, a stroke of good luck might have saved AJ's life this month.
The day before Thanksgiving, the boy's parents received a call from the hospital's transplant team, saying that they had a kidney donor lined up for AJ. Everyone was worried after an intense 3-hour surgery, but then doctors shared the good news that AJ's new kidney was functioning normally.
"This is an unexpected Thanksgiving miracle," the family's attorney Muwali Davis said in a statement. "To watch this child that no one expected to live, and now for him to have a chance at a healthy life, it's unbelievable." He added that AJ's parents were "overwhelmed with gratitude" for their good fortune.
AJ was expected to spend a week recovering at the hospital before returning home with his family. They're planning a belated Thanksgiving celebration to give thanks for their small blessing. While they still disagree with the hospital's decision about Dickerson's donation, this is a moment to look on the bright side.
"They want everyone to know that with faith, all things are possible," Davis said. "When the situation was very bleak, it was their faith and the support of the community that pulled them through this."
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