A 2-year-old boy born without kidneys is being denied an organ transplant from his perfectly matched father because of a parole violation.
Despite having being born one month prematurely, having no working kidneys and weighing only 25 pounds, AJ Burgess is an otherwise happy child. He spent the first 10 months of his life at the neonatal intensive care unit at Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, WGCL-TV reports.
AJ's mother Carmella Burgess said that his father, Anthony Dickerson, "made it his business to say" that he would give his son a kidney once he was released from prison.
"That's all I ever wanted -- was a son," Dickerson told WXIA-TV. "And I finally got him, and he's in this situation."
According to WGCL, Dickerson was in prison for violating his parole on weapons charges. He was released and went through all of the proper channels to donate his kidney to his son. The surgery was set for Oct. 3 at Emory Hospital.
That all changed when Dickerson was arrested again for possessing a firearm, a violation of his probation.
According WXIA, Emory Hospital sent Gwinnett County Jail the following letter:
"Mr. Dickerson is currently in custody for a parole violation. If Mr. Dickerson could be escorted to Emory for blood work and a pre-operative appointment tomorrow, September 29, we will be able to continue with the scheduled surgery."
Upon Dickerson's release, however, the hospital took a different stance."
"The Living Donor Transplant Team at Emory has asked Mr. Dickerson for evidence of compliance from his parole officer for the next three months. We will re-evaluate Mr. Dickerson in January 2018 after receipt of his completed documentation."
AJ's family claims that Dickerson's probation violation should not impede the surgery.
"It's about my son," Burgess said. "He's been through a lot. It's like we've been waiting on this. And Dad making a mistake shouldn't affect what he wants to do with our son."
WXIA reached out to Emory Hospital but could not get certain answers due to patient confidentiality.
"Guidelines for organ transplantation are designed to maximize the chance of success for organ recipients and minimize the risk for living donors," the hospital told them.
When asked whether being arrested affects kidney transplants, the hospital didn't answer.
WGCL looked up a statement detailing the organ transplant procedure from the United Network for Organ Sharing. They said they would ask questions about "high-risk" activity, finances and emotional support from loved ones. It did not specifically mention incarceration.
Burgess is not sure whether Jan. 2018 would already be too late for her son. She says his body is giving out and that he needs bladder surgery. In the meantime, Burgess has started a GoFundMe campaign to cover her child's medical costs.