A baby boy who was born without skin and whose eyelids were fused shut has finally gone home after a year in hospital.
Ja’bari Gray was discharged from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston last Wednesday after successful grafts of lab-grown skin.
The youngster’s delighted mother Priscilla Maldonado said: ‘I’m overwhelmed with happiness.
‘Everything is going fine. It’s working out a lot better than I expected.’
Priscilla told Today that Ja’bari has finally enjoyed skin to skin contact with her, and had his first ‘official’ bath in a regular tub at his San Antonio home last night.
The little boy also appears to enjoy his mom holding him, and he makes ‘contented cooing noises’ when she does so.
After Ja’bari was born in January, doctors warned he was unlikely to survive.
But he has thrived, with his weight growing from three pounds to 17 pounds.
Ja’bari had been due to leave hospital last month, but was kept in a little longer while doctors weaned him off pain medication.
He has been treated by a huge team of medical experts, including plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists and dermatologists.
Ja’bari was born by emergency cesarean section after an ultrasound showed that he was no longer gaining weight, and that his heart rate was dropping.
His mother told of her fears after the newborn was ‘eerily quiet’ throughout his delivery.
By the time she saw Ja’bari in Neonatal Intensive Care later that day, her son had been covered in dressings to keep his skin moisturized.
The youngster had skin on his head, face and parts of his legs, but it was missing from other body parts including his chest, back, shoulders and arms.
Speaking in July, Priscilla said: ‘It was just red. Bright red.
‘You could see all his veins (through it), everything was exposed.’
Ja’bari needed a breathing tube, painkillers and round-the-clock care.
Doctors in San Antonio even wanted to switch off his life support, but Priscilla refused, and her son was moved to Houston.
There, surgeons took skin cells from behind his ear, then sent them to a biopharmaceutical company in Massachusetts, which grew 12 trays of skin to cover Ja’bari’s body.
They were attacked to his unprotected flesh during an operation in May.
Those grafts took successfully, with all Ja’bari’s skin now covered, and the little boy breathing independently since September.
Ja’bari is still fed through a tube, and requires further surgeries – with two attempts to separate the skin on his eyelids failing.
But none of those issues are life-threatening, with Priscilla delighted about her son’s amazing progress.
She said: ‘It feels like having a baby all over again — actually being able to take the baby home.
‘It’s like a dream come true, finally.’