AJ Burgess needs another surgery, his family said Friday during a news conference.
The 2-year-old Gwinnett County boy who was born without kidneys and has needed dialysis his entire life recently developed an abdominal infection, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.
Now, AJ has pneumonia and his doctors say he needs surgery for hemodialysis access, his mother, Carmellia Burgess, said.
He was taken to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston on Sunday.
His father, who is a willing donor and a perfect match, was arrested Sept. 28 and the surgical team at Emory Hospital chose not to proceed with the surgery scheduled for early October.
Anthony Dickerson has remained by his son’s side despite the hospital’s protocol.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get my son a kidney,” Dickerson said.
Emory officials would not comment Friday, citing privacy laws.
But it wasn’t until community activists got involved that a conversation cut off by hospital officials Oct. 4 continued Thursday, Burgess said.
Students from Candler School of Theology along with members of the NAACP marched outside the hospital Thursday afternoon to let the administration know they want AJ to get the surgery he needs.
Now the Boazman Law Firm representing the family believes the transplant surgery will take place by January, after AJ’s infection heals, attorney Mawuli Davis said.
“We’re very optimistic this is going forward as soon as AJ is ready,” Davis said.
Emory CEO Jonathan S. Lewin released a statement Thursday night agreeing the boy’s health should be the priority. Lewin said the family and hospital would discuss A.J.’s case again Monday.
In addition to continuing the conversation about Dickerson's planned kidney donation, a representative from the Georgia Transplant Foundation agreed to mentor Dickerson.
David Manuel, a liver transplant recipient, said he is eager to help Dickerson through aspects of organ donation such as post-operative care and the nuances of raising money to help pay for associated health costs.
“I want to make sure I coach (Dickerson) through the process because at the end of the day it’s about being a father,” Manuel said. “You have a father willing to do what father’s do: take care of their kids.”
Manuel said Dickerson has an opportunity to not only help his own son but also impact the community by showing the importance of being an organ donor.
Burgess said she is dedicated to staying strong for her son, who has continued to fight.
“Through everything, AJ smiles,” Burgess said. “You can’t tell anything is wrong unless you lift up his shirt and see his tubes.”