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Lifelong friends, liver recipients attend Rock Ridge homecoming together

Jakob Jasin and Grace Haddad on Rock Ridge High School’s homecoming night. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud
While most high school students may meet their homecoming dates in a shared class, Rock Ridge High School Senior Jakob Jasin met his in a children's hospital.

On Saturday night, Jasin escorted Grace Haddad, a junior from Olney, Maryland, to his homecoming after the two became the first children in the United States to receive liver transplants because of a medical condition known as Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD).

“To me, it is important to share the story so people can see how much impact organ donation has on a single person's life,” Haddad said. “I'm hoping it will inspire [people] to become organ donors themselves so they too can save many lives.”

Haddad said the understanding that comes with having this important experience in common has been the foundation of a lifelong friendship. Jasin also said sharing a childhood with someone who has the same medical condition was a validating experience.

“I feel as though I'm not alone,” Jasin said. “People say to me they understand my pain, but I feel Grace really does because we have traveled the same road.”

Jasin and Haddad were born with MSUD, a rare metabolic disorder that prevents their bodies from properly breaking down certain amino acids. The condition can lead to brain damage and requires strict monitoring and diet control. Liver transplants are the only way to permanently fix the problem, though the procedure carries some risks.

After receiving liver transplants in Pittsburgh almost 14 years ago, they and their families became friends, staying in touch even after Jasin's family left the D.C. area due to military obligations.

This past year at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC's Transplant Camp, Jasin and Haddad reunited, this time as teenagers. Now living back in the D.C. area, Jasin attended his school's homecoming dance with his special friend on his arm.

“She has been a good friend for so many years and now I get to share my world with her,” Jasin said.

Haddad assists Jasin with his wardrobe at Jasin's house in Ashburn. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud

Jakob Jasin and Grace Haddad enjoy dinner at Matchbox before the Rock Ridge homecoming Sept. 23. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud


Hope you two remain life long friends. What a great story. Humanity at its best!

What a wonderful story.


great story.

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