Baby born without skin can be held, kissed after first of its kind transplant

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(KTRK/CNN/KAKE) -

After a skin transplant at Texas Children's Hospital, 10-month-old Ja'bari Gray's mom is grateful she can finally kiss her baby boy.

The San Antonio baby born with missing areas of skin came to Houston to receive life-saving treatment.

"He literally from the neck down, from the front and back nothing, there was no skin and even parts of his legs, he had no skin," said his mother Priscilla Maldonado.

Born weighing just 3 pounds, the New Year's Day baby has already defeated the odds.

Maldonado says doctors told her only two other babies like Ja'bari have been born in the U.S. Neither of them survived.

After Ja'bari spent the first three months of his life in a San Antonio NICU, doctors told his family to prepare for the worst.

Maldonado refused to accept defeat.

"If it wasn't his purpose to be here, he would have been gone from birth or even before birth, so he does have a purpose in this world and we never know what it is until the future," Maldonado said.

Ja'bari also has other complications. His eyes are fused shut and even though his skin has started to grow on its own, his fingers, toes and neck became fused while in the NICU.

Texas Children's Hospital stepped in.

Maldonado says there was no sign of anything wrong during her pregnancy, and they only discovered the abnormalities after he was born and aptly named. Ja'bari, she says, means 'fighter.'

"It actually means fighter and warrior, and that name was given to him by his grandfather, which we didn't even know what his condition was, and come to find out it fits exactly what he's going through," Maldonado told Eyewitness News.

His skin was grown inside a Boston lab that specializes in burn victims. Ja'bari's case was a first.

"That was the first transplant ever that's been done in his situation and on a baby his age," said Maldonado.

The successful transplant meant she got to finally embrace her baby skin-to-skin for the first time, 10 months after he was born.

"It was heartwarming, because he was crying when he was laying down, but as soon as I picked him up and had the skin-to-skin contact and put him on my chest, he just stopped crying," Maldonado said.

Ja'bari is now off pain medication and can breathe on his own, and he gets to go home in less than three weeks.

"Now you can kiss him, touch him, do all that stuff," Maldonado said. "He got to wear his first set of clothes now, so he's getting there."

His siblings are also getting in on the love. Big brother Jaden held Ja'bari for two hours Wednesday.

Ja'bari was given little chance at birth by doctors, but he now weighs nearly 18 pounds.

Ja'bari still has a long way to go.

After two surgeries to open his eyelids, they re-closed. Both of his arms, right hand, right foot and neck will all require surgery to separate them.

Maldonado is staying positive, celebrating every milestone.

"Making coo sounds that normal babies would do, he's interacting with us," Maldonado said. "Even though he can't see us and stuff, he's still interacting."

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