DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A 24-hour vigil for a little boy in need of a kidney transplant concluded Thursday evening.
A.J. Burgess, 2, was born without kidneys and undergoes nightly dialysis to survive, according to the family's attorney Muwali Davis. A.J. was admitted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Egleston campus on Sunday because of complications and has since developed pneumonia over the past few days.
The toddler has been at the center of a medical controversy. His father, Anthony D. Dickerson, wants to donate a kidney, but Emory University Hospital won't perform the procedure. According to a letter from the Emory Transplant Center, Dickerson, 26, has been approved to donate a kidney to his son, but has to provide "evidence of compliance from his parole officer for the next three months."
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles website shows Dickerson has been on parole since December 2016 for fleeing or eluding police.
Dozens have gathered outside Emory University Hospital for a 24-hour vigil in an effort to pray for a miracle for A.J. as he fights for his life. The vigil started at 7:14 p.m. Wednesday, which organizers said held spiritual meaning.
"The book of 2 Chronicles 7:14 -- It says that people called by my name would humble themselves," said Pastor Derrick Rice of Sankofa United Church of Christ, who led people in song and prayer.
Attendees said they planned on praying hourly until 7:14 p.m. Thursday.
Muwali Davis said Emory Healthcare had not changed its stance as of Wednesday night to allow a transplant with a donation from his father to proceed.
"The family is asking for prayers so that this does not end tragically," Davis said at another vigil Sunday night.
"It's a shame that we have gotten to the point in society where we no longer treasure mercy and compassion," said Congressman Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, who attended Sunday's vigil. "Instead it's been replaced with vindictiveness and punishment and baby A.J. has done nothing wrong."
The Sunday group gathered outside CHOA and prayed for healing for A.J. as well as for a change of heart for those at Emory.
"Emory Healthcare is committed to the highest quality of care for its patients," the hospital said in a statement to FOX 5. "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."
Davis said he has reached out to other healthcare providers to see if any of them would be willing to perform the transplant, but he did express concerns about the idea of starting from scratch.
"We're operating at a level of desperation. So, yes, we're exploring other hospitals in and outside of the state at this point who would be willing to bring the father in, go through the battery of tests, to do everything all over again, which would be a delay that we think is absolutely avoidable," said Davis.