It’s been a long road for Ja’bari Gray. He’s only been in this world for 10 months, but he’s already been through more health issues than some people will see in a lifetime.
When Priscilla Maldonado of San Antonio, Texas, was pregnant with Ja’bari, she didn’t notice anything all that out of the ordinary.
Things seemed to be progressing as they should, until New Year’s Day when she was in the hospital, giving birth.
Instead of being congratulated, encouraged and handed her baby boy for that crucial skin-to-skin contact, the medical professionals were quiet when Ja’bari came into the world.
He was whisked away, leaving Maldonado in a confused panic.
“I was worried,” she told The Washington Post. “I was confused.”
A short time later, she got the devastating news: Her new son had been born with a large percentage of his skin missing.
“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,” she told WTVD.
“I asked what was wrong with him — was he going to survive?” Maldonado told The Post. “They said they didn’t know, that they had never seen a case like that.”
Not only was the worried mother concerned about her son’s overall health, she couldn’t hold him or even look into his eyes — both monumental bonding moments between child and parent.
“I’ve never gotten to see his eyes. It hurts,” Maldonado told The Post in April. “It’s sad I can’t do that — I can’t look in his eyes.”
She told the newspaper that she “felt lost,” but despite the uncertainty, she knew she would keep on fighting for him.
In fact, even his name — Ja’bari — was a small beacon of hope.
“It actually means fighter and warrior, and that name was given to him by his grandfather, which we didn’t even know what his condition was, and come to find out it fits exactly what he’s going through,” the mother said.
While her son struggled for his life, Maldonado believed that he was put on the Earth for a reason.
“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,” Maldonado added to WTVD.
Though initially doctors warned the parents that Ja’bari wouldn’t make it and that they should prepare themselves for his passing, he continued to live.
Eventually, he was moved to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, and a lab in Boston, Massachusetts, began the task of growing “sheets” of skin that could be grafted onto his small body.
With all the travel and medical bills adding up, the family turned to GoFundMe for help. Their GoFundMe campaign topped out at $99,000, at which point they stopped accepting donations.
A few months after his momentous arrival, Ja’bari got his first new sheets of skin.
“That was the first transplant ever that’s been done in his situation and on a baby his age,” Maldonado said.
She said the change in her son was clear.
“Now, he doesn’t have to have heat in the incubator, and his heart rate is around 120 beats per minute,” she told KTRK in May.
“Before he got here, it was over 200.”
Ja’bari also hit another milestone in May — he opened his eyes.
“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,” she said.
“Now you can kiss him, touch him, do all that stuff,” she added. “He got to wear his first set of clothes now, so he’s getting there.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.