Teen couple attend homecoming dance together, 13 years after receiving the same life-saving transplant

Greg Evans
Monday 25 September 2017 08:30
news
Picture:(Susan Jasin)

Two teenagers who met 13 years ago as patients in a hospital are now preparing to go to homecoming dance together.

Both Jakob 'JJ' Jasin and Grace Haddad met each other in 2001 when they were just kids.

Their first interactions were not under the happiest of circumstances.

The pair had both been diagnosed with the rare maple syrup urine disease - a disorder which prevents the body from processing protein properly.

They and their families met at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland when they were only a few days old.

In 2004 Jakob and Grace were two of the first people in the world to receive liver transplants to help combat the life-threatening disease.

If left untreated the disorder can lead to severe brain damage, even death.

They received their operations just three weeks apart from each other at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UMPC.

After their successful transplants the duo have kept in touch and regularly saw each other at Camp Chihopi Liver & Intestine Transplant Summer Camp.

This summer their friendship blossomed into a romance after they attended camp dance together.

Grace told NBC Washington:

Over the years [we've] gotten closer and closer, but this year I guess it's significantly closer.

We just kind of complain about things we don't like about the transplant, but then we also remind each other that you're grateful.

Jakob also shared the same point of view:

It was kind of subtly there and then it kind of grew over time, and I was like, 'OK, yeah, there's something there.

She's really the one person I know who's gone through the exact same things I have.

They both still have to take regular amounts of medication and have blood withdrawn to check that their bodies aren't rejecting the organs.

Dr George Mazariegos, who performed the transplants on both of them 13 years ago believes that their lives have been allowed to return to normal.

He told ABC News:

In a nutshell, the liver transplant really allows the life to be returned back to a normal one.

It's been great to see them now after 13 years to see how they're growing and just enjoying life.

Susan Jasin, Jakob's mother couldn't be happier, for the couple.

They went to camp this year and deepened their relationship as friends.

I think them having a common bond, they're able to rely on each other as a source of support.

Jakob now hopes that their story can help highlight the importance of organ donation and the life people can lead afterwards.

Every time I would tell the story that he was taking her to homecoming, it would just make me smile.

It would make my heart happy. It also puts the awareness out there for how critical the need is for people to have an organ donation and how life goes on through organ donation.

HT ABC News, NBC Washington

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