Local Inspiration: Jarrius Robertson
Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who turns 15 this month, has touched the hearts of people all across the country this past year. JJ suffers from chronic liver disease and is in need of his second liver transplant. He was diagnosed with biliary atresia just a few weeks after his birth. This life-threatening disease causes the bile ducts to become inflamed and blocked. The bile, a digestive liquid that is made in the liver, remains there and begins to destroy the liver cells, leading to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
Always a Fighter
JJ received his first transplant shortly after turning one. His first year was filled with many health issues. After the transplant, there were many more hardships, JJ’s doctors had to induce a coma. He stayed in that coma for nearly a year. His parents, Jordy Robertson and Patricia Hoyal, tired of seeing him suffer, made the heartbreaking decision to remove his respirator, but JJ surprised everyone and started breathing on his own.
Ochsner Medical Center
JJ’s dad, Jordy, says that JJ receives the best possible care at Ochsner Medical Center. “They are a leader in transplants. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
It was at Ochsner where JJ first met the Saints players. They stopped by to lift the spirits of the kids and JJ made quite an impression. Not only is JJ the Saints’ biggest fan, but he enjoys offering the players constructive criticism to help with their game. His fun-loving, huge personality and tell-it-like-it-is style has made many in the Who Dat Nation and beyond a super fan of JJ.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints adopted JJ as an honorary team member and that has opened up some amazing opportunities for him to meet many athletes and celebrities. JJ has become a regular at the Saints’ practices and especially on game days, where he keeps the players from opposing teams in line with quotes like the now famous, “Don’t dance in my end zone!” He has appeared on Good Morning America, WWE Wrestling Mania, NFL Honors and numerous local television and radio shows. Jordy says JJ loves all sports and is enjoying his new celebrity status. “He gets to do all the things he loves to do! He gets to see the people he would normally only see on TV, he gets to meet them in person and interact with them.”
Jordy and JJ also get to share their message of “It takes lives to save lives.” JJ and his family spread the importance of organ donation and the impact it can have on the lives of others.
It Takes Lives to Save Lives
JJ is listed on the transplant list as B status – critical. Jordy says a big issue for JJ is pain, and he works with pain management to control it. The team at Ochsner works to treat JJ as an outpatient as much as possible. “They try to avoid admitting him, he hasn’t been in the hospital since November,” says Jordy.
People often approach Jordy asking how can they help JJ, he advises everyone to sign up to be an organ donor through the LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) website, www.lopa.org. “People don’t have to die to save another person’s life. You can donate blood, a piece of a liver or a kidney,” says Jordy. “We need to make people more aware of the importance of organ donation.”
JJ doesn’t let his circumstances get to him. “He just goes with it as it comes. He never really lets us see him down about it,” says Jordy. JJ says he copes by “not thinking on the bad things”. He involves himself in the community, especially sporting events. He also enjoys playing video games, and sometimes that happens to be with celebrities.
He’s a voice and inspiration for all who are going through the same thing. We keep pushing because we’re speaking for the voices that can’t speak,” says Jordy.
JJ says when the day comes for his transplant, he’ll be ready. “I think the best is yet to come for him and he knows it too,” says Jordy.
Facts about Donation:
- Registering your decision to donate will not interfere with life-saving medical care. Organ, eye and tissue donation is only an option after all life-saving attempts have been made and death is declared.
- Anyone can potentially be a donor regardless of age, race or medical history. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, poor diet or lifestyle, poor eye sight or cataracts may not prevent you from being a donor.
- All major religions approve of organ, eye and tissue donation. They see it as an unselfish act of charity.
- There is no cost for organ, eye and tissue donation. Once recovery is initiated, LOPA or the eye bank incurs all costs for recovery.
- In the US, it is illegal to distribute organs based on wealth, citizenship or celebrity status and it is also illegal to buy or sell organs for transplantation.
- Donation does not prevent open casket funerals. Donated organs, tissues and eyes are surgically removed and the donor is treated with utmost dignity and respect.
- If you are not a registered donor or under the age of 18, the appropriate organ, eye or tissue bank must obtain consent for recovery from your legal next of kin.
- Louisiana’s Anatomical Gift Act allows you to consent for yourself. You can register your decision to be a donor at the Office of Motor Vehicles or online. Let family members know about your decision to become an organ, eye and tissue donor, this will allow them to support your decision to donate.
- The recovery process takes approximately 12-36 hours after death occurs, but all efforts are taken to ensure your family can make prompt funeral arrangements.
Organ Donation Statistics:
- 2,144 people are waiting on a life-saving organ transplant in Louisiana
- 22 people die every day while waiting for a transplant
- Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list
- 1 donor can potentially save up to 9 lives
- 118,591 people need a lifesaving organ transplant