USA Today NetworkCydney Henderson, The Arizona Republic
Published 11:16 a.m. ET Oct. 31, 2017
A.J. Burgess, 2, who was born without kidneys, was hospitalized Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, after he was denied a transplant from his father whom the family say is a perfect match.(Photo: Provided by Mawuli Davis via WXIA-TV, Atlanta)
PHOENIX — A young Atlanta boy who was denied a kidney transplant after his father violated parole was rushed to the emergency room Sunday with an abdominal infection.
A.J. Burgess, 2, was born without kidneys.
He has been waiting to have a transplant surgery since earlier this month. The toddler has a willing kidney donor who is a perfect match — his father.
However, Anthony Dickerson cannot donate his healthy kidney until he shows evidence he complied with his parole officer for several months.
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Emory University Hospital said they will re-evaluate the situation in January 2018, according to a letter obtained by the Atlantic Journal-Constitution.
But the family fears that may be too late.
‘His body is weakening’
A.J. was admitted to the hospital Sunday with peritonitis, according to the family’s attorney Mawuli Davis.
Peritonitis is inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.
“The family is asking people of all faith traditions to be in prayer today for Baby A.J. His spirit is strong but his body is weakening,” Davis said in a statement Sunday.
Dickerson was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm and eluding police days before he was scheduled to donate his kidney to his son, according to authorities.
The family told the Journal-Constitution that medical officials sent a letter to Gwinnett County Jail, requesting Dickerson be escorted to Emory University Hospital to continue with the surgery.
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Police say Dickerson was released from jail Oct. 2, a day before the kidney transplant was scheduled.
“Our staff worked diligently with court personnel and the District Attorney’s Office to make arrangements for Mr. (Anthony) Dickerson’s early release so that he could follow through on his scheduled kidney donation for his young son, AJ,” Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Volkodav said in a statement.
But Davis said the hospital’s transplant center put the surgery on hold after Dickerson’s release.
In a letter to the family, Emory Hospital officials said Dickerson would have to show evidence of good behavior for the next three to four months before being allowed to donate a kidney to his son.
“The hospital has required his father’s parole officer to report three months before they will reconsider the surgery,” according to a GoFundMe page set up for A.J.
Outcry over hospital’s decision
Community members, including U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, held a prayer vigil for A.J. after he was admitted to the hospital Sunday.
“They’re making this about Dad,” the child’s mother, Carmellia Burgess told WXIA-TV, Atlanta. “It’s about our 2-year-old son.”
The hospital’s decision has prompted outcry in Atlanta and on social media.
The family is looking into other options to save A.J.’s life.
“We are trying every option possible so that our son can get the kidney he needs so he can begin to live a normal healthy life as a 2-year-old should,” Burgess wrote on the GoFundMe page.
That includes looking for another hospital that will re-approve Dickerson and perform the transplant.
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Vincent Dollard, an Emory spokesman, said the hospital is committed to the highest quality of care for its patients.
“Guidelines for organ transplantation are designed to maximize the chance of success for organ recipients and minimize risk for living donors,” Dollard told The Washington Post. “Transplant decisions regarding donors are made based on many medical, social, and psychological factors.”
They refused to comment further because of patient confidentiality.
Harold Spence, an attorney with the Davis Bozeman law firm which is representing the family said the hospital is concerned Dickerson won’t follow through on the “post-transplant medical protocol that would be required of a kidney donor.”
Spence said Dickerson is committed to the post-surgery commitment and periodic doctor visits that would be required.
“He has to go through periodic testing after the surgery; periodic medical examination,” Spence said. “They were concerned as represented to us that Mr. Dickerson might not follow through with the post-surgical protocol.”
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, “living donors should be in good overall physical and mental health and older than 18 years of age.” The organization said there are some medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, HIV, or a psychiatric condition that requires treatment, that could prevent a living donation.
Contributing: Kristen Reed, WXIA-TV, Atlanta. Follow Cydney Henderson on Twitter: @CydHenderson
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