Warning: Graphic content
A baby who was born with large areas of his skin missing can finally enjoy kisses and cuddles from his mother thanks to pioneering surgery.
Ja’bari Gray, from Houston, Texas, was born on New Year’s Day weighing just three pounds (1.3kg). As well as his missing skin, his eyelids were fused together and he suffered with breathing problems.
Doctors told his mother, Priscilla Maldonado, only two other babies in the US had been born with the same condition. Sadly, neither had survived.
Watch Priscilla talk about her son here:
The mother described Ja’bari to ABC News, saying:
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.
The newborn spent the first three months of his life in intensive care, with doctors telling his family to prepare for the worst. Ja’bari proved strong and determined, however, as 10 months later he weighs nearly 18lbs (8.1kg).
He recently underwent a skin transplant at Texas Children’s Hospital, the first of its kind on a baby so young, which means he can now wear clothes, be picked up and be kissed by his mum.
Incredibly, the skin used in Ja’bari’s operation was grown inside a Boston lab that specialises in burn victims. According to ABC News, technicians used a biopsy of the baby’s skin to grow more of it.
Priscilla believes the young boy’s survival is part of his ‘purpose’, as she said:
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.
[Ja’bari] actually means fighter and warrior, and that name was given to him by his grandfather… [when] we didn’t even know what his condition was, and come to find out it fits exactly what he’s going through.
The mother described her first skin-to-skin contact with Ja’bari as ‘heartwarming’ as she spoke of the ways the surgery has transformed how she can interact her with her son, who is now off pain medication and can breathe on his own.
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.
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, 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.
Ja’bari is said to be loving spending time with his family, but while the skin transplant has had an incredible effect on the youngster’s life he still has a long way to go.
Surgeons have tried to separate his eyelids on two occasions, however they have been unsuccessful. They also need to treat his fingers, toes and neck, which became fused during a long stint in intensive care.
Priscilla is staying positive and continues to celebrate every milestone in her young son’s life.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.