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Father hopes to remain donor for Georgia toddler: I'll 'do whatever it takes to get my son a kidney'

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- The family of the 2-year-old Georgia boy in desperate need of a kidney transplant said in a press conference Friday that they are hopeful that the decision on whether his father will serve as the donor will be made in a meeting with Emory University Hospital staff on Monday.

The toddler, A.J. Burgess, was born a month early and without a working kidney. He was set to receive one last month from his father, Anthony Dickerson, who tested as a perfect match.

But, the Oct. 3 operation was canceled due to Dickerson's criminal record. He had been arrested last December for violating his probation on weapons charge and vowed to serve as A.J.'s kidney donor once he got out, his mother, Carmellia Burgess, told Atlanta CBS affiliate WGCL-TV. He was released six weeks later but was arrested again on Sept. 28 for violating his parole again for possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies as well as for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, criminal records show.

A.J., who weighs just 25 pounds and is suffering from pneumonia and peritonitis, is now fighting for his life. His mother cried during the press conference while updating the public on A.J.'s condition.

Burgess said Friday that she doesn't believe that A.J. would have developed a third bout of peritonitis -- inflammation of the peritoneum -- had he received the surgery as originally scheduled.

A.J. is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday to change the way he is receiving dialysis, family attorney Mawuli Davis said, calling A.J. a "miracle child."

Davis said he believes A.J. will receive the transplant before January. Once he has been infection-free for a month or two, he will be able to receive the transplant, Burgess said.

At Monday's meeting, the family's attorneys hope to establish a "specific evaluated protocol" on whether Dickerson may remain as the donor as well as a timeline for when A.J. can receive the surgery.

Family attorney Harold Spence said that the nine-part evaluation that Dickerson completed in order to become a living donor will still stand. Hospital officials assured the family Thursday that they do not need to start from "square one," but rather only the components that may have changed since his arrest will be re-evaluated.

Officials are concerned with Dickerson's ability to comply with any medical after-care post-surgery, one of the components in the nine-part evaluation, and suggested someone to mentor him, Spence said. The attorneys nominated liver transplant recipient and fellow father David Manuel to work with Dickerson in a one-on-one capacity "so he knows he is not in it by himself," Spence said.

"As a father, it’s after-care. It’s the finance. It’s all these things," Manuel said.

During the "emotionally charged" meeting Thursday, Spence said Emory officials apologized to the family.

"That meant a lot to us," Spence said.

Burgess has been A.J.'s main caretaker throughout his illness, helping him complete his dialysis three times a day as well as transporting him to the hospital at least three times a week -- all the while caring for A.J.'s siblings as well, Davis said.

"We keep teasing her that she should go to medical school after this," Davis said.

Burgess said that when she was five months pregnant with A.J., doctors recommended that she abort him. When she refused, doctors were required to "stake" her through the placenta "to give him treatment to survive," she said.

Davis urged the public to not let the Dickerson's criminal record soil the magnitude of the "beautiful" gift he is providing for his son, saying that Dickerson is "prepared to literally risk his life for his child's life."

"He is here," Davis said. "He is standing tall."

Despite his dire condition, Burgess said her son "laughs every day."

"Through everything, A.J. smiles," his mother said. "You can't look at him and tell anything is wrong with him on a daily basis unless you lift up his shirt and see his tubes."

Both parents thanked the community for its support while wearing custom T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of A.J. as well as the hashtag #Kidney4AJ.

"I'm gonna do whatever it takes to get my son a kidney, and I appreciate the community...." Dickerson said.

"We couldn't have done it without you guys," Burgess said.

On Thursday, Emory Healthcare CEO Dr. Jonathan S. Lewin told ABC News that hospital staff "greatly" respects Dickerson's desire to become a donor. Lewin said that while doctors would like to work with him to "make this happen," he warned that national guidelines for approving a potential donor are "clear and stringent."

Individuals interested in being a donor must undergo a "psychosocial and medical evaluation process" to protect themselves and "to help ensure success of the transplant," according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Lewin said A.J. has "captured the hearts of all of us in Atlanta, and many people around the country."

"This courageous and magnetic young boy has kidney failure, and he and his family have bravely battled his health challenges every day of his life," Lewin said. "The entire Emory community is motivated and engaged to help him secure a healthy future."

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