Ja’bari Gray fights for his life. He was only 3 lbs when he was born, and the only skin he has was on his face, head, and parts of arms and legs. His doctors advised his parents to “pull the plug,” but his parents Priscilla Maldonado and Marvin Gray let him live because they believed their son’s existence has a purpose.
When Jabari came into the world, he couldn’t open his eyes, and he needed assistance to breathe. Even if he needed continuous pain medication, her mother wants her baby to live.
Ja’bari means warrior and fighter, and now after ten months, he has skin on his neck, arms, and midsection due to skin transplant. The Texas Children’s Hospital performed elaborative skin graft surgery. They’ve grown skin in a laboratory using the cells from the ear of Ja’bari.
Now, Ja’bari’s parents can do skin-to-skin contact and kiss him. Priscilla said she waited for almost a year to do that. ABC 13 interviewed Priscilla, and she said, “It was heartwarming because he was crying when he was lying 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.”
Priscilla added, “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.” Ja’bari is now nearly 18 lbs, is off pain medications, and can breathe on his own.
Priscilla was tested on ultrasound when she was 37 weeks pregnant, and the test showed her baby wasn’t adding weight, and there’s a drop on his heart rate. Priscilla underwent an immediate C-section to save his child.
Jabari’s two older siblings are healthy, and his doctors don’t know the reason for his medical condition. They initially thought it might be a skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa, which causes blisters to fragile skin. But after testing, Priscilla and Marvin found out they are not carriers of the condition.
There are setbacks in the recovery of Ja’bari. He went two surgeries so he can open his eyes, but the operations have failed. The doctors said they wouldn’t operate anymore because it’s a delicate procedure.
Ja’bari still needs several surgeries for the separation of his arms, neck, right foot, and right hand. Even if there’s uncertainty in Jabari’s healing, Priscilla is still positive as she observes and enjoys the infant milestones of her child.
Priscilla expressed, “He’s 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.”