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Saints Super Fan, Ochsner patient Jarrius Robertson has been battling chronic liver disease

Meeting players at Ochsner Hospital for Children led to special week for Jarrius

*Jarrius Robertson will receive the Jimmy V Award during the ESPYs broadcast Wednesday, July 12 on ABC. Below is the story from Dec. 25, 2015 that introduced the New Orleans Saints super fan to the world. Since this story was published Jarrius received a new liver during an operation performed at Ochsner Hospital for Children.
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If you're waiting for Jarrius Robertson to mope you should pull up a chair, get comfortable, and settle in because it could take a while.

And in the interest of forewarning, know that the "while" very well could mean "never."

He was that way before New Orleans Saints players paid him, and other children, a visit at Ochsner Hospital for Children last week, before the team invited him and his family to the facility to attend practice and get a more personal introduction to the players Dec. 19, before he was a special guest of punter Thomas Morstead for the Monday night game against Detroit in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 21.

True, those events, which received national coverage following a series of videos posted on the team's Facebook page, might have brought out even more of Jarrius' enthusiasm and magnetism – and he already was about as enthused and magnetic as any person possibly could be.

"He always did love the Saints," said his father, Jordy Robertson. "He'd sit in front of the TV every day, all day, just watching the NFL Network or ESPN. He's just a diehard Saints fan because everything he sees is Black and Gold. And being partnered with Ochsner … you have no other choice but to be one."

Still, though, the effervescence always has been there.

"He was born like that," Jordy said.

That could be placed in the category of astounding, considering he also was born like this: Diagnosed early with biliary atresia, a chronic liver disease. It's a childhood disease of the liver in which one or more bile ducts are abnormally narrow, blocked, or absent, and can occur as a birth defect or as an acquired disease.

It's the reason 13-year-old Jarrius stands about waist high to an average adult male, and one of the reasons he treks from Reserve, La., to Ochsner twice a week, and one of the reasons that the Saints Super Fan became more than just a fan to several of the players.

"If you can't get energy from him, something is wrong with you," safety Jairus Byrd said.

"I hadn't seen him (initially during the hospital visit) and then Lish (Saints director of community affairs Elicia Broussard Sheridan) – I was visiting with some people in the room –and she was like, 'Jairus, I have someone you really want to meet. He wants to meet you.'

"So I came out and right when I saw him, he was putting on. Talking about, 'I hear you've got my name!' I was like, 'OK.' He kept telling me that he had his name before I did. So I got my name from him, apparently."

The energy overtook Morstead, too.

"Everybody saw his personality," Morstead said. "He's going through a life-threatening type of deal and he's got a great attitude. It's inspiring.

"They introduced him to me as The Mayor. We went in there and he was going. He was great. He's going through some tough stuff and he's got a great attitude and right at the end of (the visit) he was like, 'Hey, man, who's going to hook me up with tickets?' "

Morstead became the gift-giver, Jarrius the wired-up recipient.

"I'm still my same self," Jarrius said. "Nothing can hold me down."

You don't disbelieve him, not today or any other day. Not even now, knowing that he's in line for another liver transplant after having endured a list of hardships that would unsettle most, and knock a few to their knees.

"He was diagnosed with liver failure at the age of six months," Jordy said. "And throughout the process he underwent one liver transplant in 2004, and after the liver transplant he had multiple failures.  He stayed in a coma a whole year, went through numerous surgeries and he's currently on the waiting list for another liver transplant.

"(The Saints' visit) inspired him. We tried to hide it from him, hide it from him, we couldn't and he couldn't sleep. He stayed up all night just thinking about it, wondering what he was going to say. I told him, 'Just go ahead and be you.'

"It really lifted him up, as far as dealing with the troubles he's going through and the troubles he had been through. By him meeting the Saints players and seeing (quarterback) Drew Brees, meeting (defensive end) Cameron Jordan, (punter) Thomas Morstead and family, it really helps him out and prepares him for his next liver transplant, which will be January or February."

The trip to the Saints practice facility afforded Jarrius and his brother Tiy Quan an opportunity to meet coaches and players, to play catch, to run routes with Byrd and Brees serving as his quarterbacks. It was one of the times in which Jarrius could be just another child.

"(The disease) stunted his growth," Jordy said. "It prevents him from doing things that he would like to do, like play football, play baseball, or even visit a parish fair. He's unable to get on a ride because of his height. All of that is based upon his condition.

"But it helps him out because it built his heart stronger. I truly believe he has the heart of a 30-year-old man, it's just in a 13-year-old body."

He's a 13-year-old who's comfortable, and direct.

He truly became a Saints fan in 2009, when his "maw-maw" showed him Brees.

"And that was the year they won the Super Bowl," Jarrius said. "So ever since then, I just stuck with them."

He wants an electric dirt bike for Christmas, to go alongside the four-wheeler that he already has and uses to race his brother.

For him, size doesn't really matter, but he'd take a little more of it if that deal is on the table.

"I know that if I get this new liver transplant, I might get a little bigger," he said. "I just want to be at least 5-foot-5. That'll be all right."

But, whether 5-5 or waist high, there's a boundlessness to Jarrius, an infectious positivity that doesn't follow him so much as it bursts outward from within. It's needed by those around him even when it might not appear to be needed by Jarrius himself.

"He may see me down, but he'll tap me on the shoulder and say, 'Hey, Daddy, it's gonna be all right. We've got it,' " Jordy said. "He continues to fight and motivate. Even when I don't have the strength to go on, he has the strength to continue.

"Throughout the years, I never saw a down moment for him. And football really helps him out."

One of the things football doesn't help him with? Needles.

Those twice weekly visits involve a checkup and blood work, and of that, Jarrius is no fan.

"I don't like the I.V.," he said. "When they put them in, I put up a fight. I don't go down that easy."

No, he doesn't. Going down easy doesn't happen to a fighter.

Saints fan Jarrius "Little JJ" Robertson attended the New Orleans vs Detriot Lions game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Follow Jarrius at www.facebook.com/JarriusRobertson

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