There was a time last year when the parents of A.J. Burgess feared the toddler might not live to see his 3rd birthday.
He was in desperate need of a kidney transplant, and his father, Anthony Dickerson, was a donor match. However, officials at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta told the boy's parents that a planned surgery on Oct. 3 was postponed due to a parole violation by Dickerson.
The situation was ultimately resolved, and A.J.'s mother, Carmellia Burgess, shared the joyous news on Jan. 15 that he celebrated turning 3 after receiving a new kidney from a deceased donor in November.
"I never thought he'd be looking at this day," Burgess told NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA. "But it's his first birthday with a kidney."
A.J. was born without any kidneys and had been on dialysis for his entire life before getting the transplant on Nov. 22 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, which is part of the Emory Healthcare Network.
Burgess went public with her pleas for help after the hospital sent her a letter indicating that the October surgery would be pushed back until Dickerson could prove he had complied with his parole officer for three months.
An outpouring of support that included demonstrations and prayer vigils in front of Emory University Hospital as well as an online petition that received nearly 60,000 signatures was followed by the hospital apologizing to A.J.'s parents.
Dr. Jonathan Lewin, the CEO of Emory Healthcare, apologized for what he called "a breakdown in communication," according to WXIA. A deceased donor that was a match then helped save A.J.'s life.
"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.'"
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