A toddler who was prevented from receiving a kidney transplant from his father was reportedly rushed to an emergency room Sunday with an abdominal infection.
The family's attorney, Mawuli Davis, said A.J. was admitted into the hospital Sunday with peritonitis, an inflammation of the tissue lining the inner wall of the abdomen caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.
He said the young boy, who was whimpering in pain, is now being treated with antibiotics.
“Every day he goes without the transplant is a day he suffers,” he told The Washington Post.
The boy's father, Anthony Dickerson, who was on probation, was arrested days before the scheduled transplant earlier this month on charges of possession of a firearm and fleeing or attempting to elude police, authorities said.
Shannon Volkodav, a spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, previously said that Dickerson was released from Gwinnett County Jail so that he could undergo the surgery.
But the family's attorney said that after Dickerson's release, the transplant center at Emory University Hospital said the surgery had been put on hold, pending compliance with his parole.
“That's all I ever wanted was a son,” the 26-year-old father told NBC affiliate WXIA following the hospital's decision earlier this month. “And I finally got him, and he's in this situation.”
The family told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that medical personnel sent a letter to jail authorities, requesting that Dickerson be escorted to Emory for a preoperative appointment so he could continue with the scheduled surgery. The next day, A.J.'s mother provided authorities with the necessary documentation showing that Dickerson was scheduled to donate a kidney on Oct. 3, said Volkodav, with the sheriff’s office.
“Our staff worked diligently with court personnel and the District Attorney’s Office to make arrangements for Mr. Dickerson’s early release so that he could follow through on his scheduled kidney donation for his young son, AJ,” Volkodav said in a statement earlier this month. As a result, she said, Dickerson was released Oct. 2 on a $1,000 bond.
“We wish this family well in their pursuit of medical assistance for their son and hope that little AJ is soon enjoying good health,” she said in the statement.
But after authorities secured his release, the family said, the hospital backpedaled.
In a second letter, hospital officials said the transplant team at Emory would now require Dickerson to provide evidence that he had complied with his parole officer over the next three months.
“We will reevaluate Mr. Dickerson in January 2018 after receipt of his completed documentation,” it read, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The family argues that the kidney transplant should not be about Dickerson.
“It's about my son,” the child's mother told WXIA. “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.”
Family members told the news station that they are at a loss — A.J., who had a stroke a couple of months ago, needs the transplant, and putting him on a waiting list for a kidney would take too long. They have since created an online petition, urging the hospital to proceed with the child's transplant.
Asked about the decision to postpone the transplant, Emory spokesman Vincent Dollard said in a statement to The Post:
Emory Healthcare 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. Transplant decisions regarding donors are made based on many medical, social, and psychological factors. Because of privacy regulations and respect for patient confidentiality, we cannot share specific information about our patients.
Though it's unclear why exactly Emory appeared to go back on its decision, experts say transplant centers look at many factors when evaluating a living donor, including health risks and whether the donor will be reliable and accessible.
Dickerson's medical history is not publicly known.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that manages the transplant system in the United States, living donors “should be in good overall physical and mental health.”
Some medical conditions could prevent you from being a living donor. Medical conditions that may prevent a living kidney donation may include uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, acute infections, or a psychiatric condition requiring treatment. Since some donor health conditions could harm a transplant recipient, it is important that you share all information about your physical and mental health. You must be fully informed of the known risks involved with donating and complete a full medical and psychosocial evaluation.
Art Caplan, a professor of bioethics and head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine, said earlier this month that policies are determined by authorities and transplant centers, not by law.
“Usually when centers balk at a donor, it's for some reason having to do with a medical problem that hasn't been disclosed that poses additional risk . . . or a worry that the donor can't follow up with medical care if something goes wrong,” he previously told The Post. “But I don't find either of those particularly great reasons not to use him as a donor.”