When bringing a child into the world, parents always hope that their little one arrives healthy. Unfortunately, a number of factors can complicate births and put the baby's health at risk when it's born. In the case of Brandi McGlathery and her baby Eli, a rare and unexpected condition ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Eli was born on March 4th, 2015 in Foley, Alabama. His mother had no reason to suspect things weren't normal before he was born, and it wasn't until after she had him that doctors realized Eli was missing his nose.
Eli was rushed to another hospital before his mother even had a chance to absorb what she'd just been told. Her son suffered from a rare condition called "congenital arhinia." The National Institutes of Health say that only 47 other people have ever reported suffering from this condition.
Separated from her baby, McGlathery was terrified. On the GoFundMe page for Eli, she explains that she was "scared, alone, & confused" for the whole night. "I called every 15 minutes to ask if my child was still alive."
The biggest problem with congenital arhinia is that the patient is unable to eat and breath at the same time, something the rest of us don't even think about. Eli required a tracheostomy, which would allow him to breathe through an opening in his windpipe.
Unfortunately, the tracheostomy wouldn't be the last surgery Eli would undergo. His mother soon learned that her son would require annual surgery until his teens to keep him healthy. An overwhelming amount of surgery and hospital bills is discouraging news for any parent, but Brandi and Eli had no idea they were about to meet someone who would change their lives forever.
Her name is Tessa Evans. She was born with congenital arhinia just like Eli, the only difference was that she went through a surgery in June that would give her a prosthetic nose.
This chart explains how Tessa will have a prosthetic nose that grows with her face.
After seeing what doctors were able to do for Tessa, Brandi planned to bring a ten-month-old Eli to London for his first prosthetic nose assessment.
In the months leading up to their trip, a wild coincidence occurred. Tessa's father was going to be visiting Atlanta, Georgia after winning a trip there. On that same weekend, Eli's grandparents were planning on traveling to Atlanta to visit family. This gave both families a chance to meet, and for Tessa and Eli to see another child who looked just like them.
Gráinne Evans, Tessa's mother, had this to say about the experience on Facebook: "To get to introduce Tessa to Eli was like a dream come true and it meant the world to us to sit and talk with his family. Tessa was totally taken with Eli and hugged him and stroked his head. Watching Eli gaze up at her was too precious for words. For them, it was just meeting a new friend; for us, it was so much more!"
Baby Eli is as wide-eyed and full of wonder as any other baby.
He already knows that he wants to be a Wildcat.
Until then, being the world's most adorable duck will have to do.
Babies like Eli and Tessa remind us to always stay positive in the face of adversity. As unusual as their stories are, they never stop smiling. We can't wait to see what wonderful people these two grow up to be.