Two teenagers who suffered from the same life-threatening disease are going to the homecoming dance together, 13 years after they received life-saving operations.
Grace Haddad met Jakob ‘JJ’ Jasin at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, when they were both patients at the hospital, in 2001.
They were both only a couple of days old when they were first brought to the hospital in Maryland, and diagnosed with a rare disease known as ‘maple syrup urine’ disease.
Their families grew close when they discovered both their children were suffering from the same condition.
Back in 2004, the young couple received life-saving liver transplants. They were two of the first people to ever receive a transplant that would help fight the disease.
Jakob and Grace received their operations within three weeks of one another. The liver transplants were carried out at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UMPC.
13 years on from their medical procedures, the youngsters are now preparing to attend Homecoming together.
The teenagers kept in contact after their operations, and often attended the same summer camp. This summer, they both attended the Camp Chihopi Liver & Intestine Transplant Summer Camp. Jakob admits of their connection, "It was kind of subtly there, and then it grew over time.”
Jakob opened up to NBC about his relationship with Grace, “She's really the one person I know who's gone through the exact same things I have.”
They say they’re a huge support for one another. The pair admits their difficult childhoods helped them develop a strong bond.
This disorder prevents the body from correctly producing protein. The disease is medically called branched-chain ketoaciduria.
Infants who are born with this illness appear normal at first, but their health deteriorates at a rapid pace.
Many children who have maple syrup urine disease often suffer from brain damage. When it comes to severe cases of this disease, many children pass away within the space of five months.
The hereditary disease stops the body from breaking down certain amino acids, including valine, leucine, and isoleucine. This causes the chemicals to build up in the bloodstream.
Jakob is enjoying every moment of his life, and he takes nothing for granted, “We thought kindergarten wouldn't even be possible, and now here I am as a senior going to Homecoming.”