Doctors didn’t initially expect that Ja’bari Gray, who was born without skin on most of his body, would survive

By Maria Pasquini
January 03, 2020
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Courtesy Priscilla Maldonado Gray

Less than two months after he was finally released from the hospital, Ja’bari Gray, who was born without skin on most of his body, celebrated his first birthday.

On New Year’s Day, Ja’bari’s parents honored the milestone with a Baby Shark-themed party.

In one image from the bash, the entire family wears Baby Shark shirts as Priscilla Maldonado holds her son in her arms while standing with her two other children and husband Marvin Gray in front of a festive birthday sign. Another photo shows the boy wrapped in a blanket covered with cartoon sharks.

After nearly a year in the hospital and countless skin grafts, Ja’bari was released from the hospital in November.

Maldonado, shared the happy news on a GoFundMe campaign that has since been deactivated, noting that while her son would still need additional surgeries, he was improving thanks to lab-grown skin that doctors grafted onto his body at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Ja’bari Gray and family
Ja’bari Gray
Courtesy Priscilla Maldonado Gray
Ja’bari Gray birthday party
Courtesy Priscilla Maldonado Gray
Ja’bari Gray birthday party
Courtesy Priscilla Maldonado Gray

“I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” Maldonado, 25, told Today at the time. “Everything is going fine. It’s working out a lot better than I expected.”

“It feels like having a baby all over again — actually being able to take the baby home,” she added, noting that she was thrilled to be able to do typical newborn activities with Gray, like giving him a bath in the tub and holding him regularly. “It’s like a dream come true, finally.”

Ja’bari Gray
GoFundMe

Maldonado was only able to start holding her son and giving him kisses in October.

“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,” she told ABC 13.

Ja’bari — whose name aptly means “fighter and warrior” — came into the world on Jan. 1 “completely silent,” Maldonado previously told the San Antonio Express-News, a shock compared to the births of her first two children.

The child tested normally throughout her pregnancy until her 37-week ultrasound, which showed that his heart rate had dropped and he wasn’t gaining weight. Doctors immediately performed an emergency C-section on Jan. 1, and with only skin on his head, face and parts of his legs and arms, doctors didn’t expect Gray to survive.

Ja’bari Gray shortly after his birth
Priscilla Maldonado/GoFundMe

But Maldonado refused to “pull the plug” and pushed for his continued medical care. Doctors are still unsure why Gray was born without skin.

“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 previously told ABC 13.

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This article originally appeared on People.com