"We're finally home & getting ready for our first real bath, then it's cuddle time!" It's the kind of Facebook post you'd expect from a new mom. Except this one, made last night, is more significant than most. Eli Thompson was born to Alabama parents Brandi McGlathery and Troy Thompson on March 4, and as the doctor placed the 6 pound, 8 ounce child on McGlathery's chest, she realized something was amiss: Her child had no nose. If that sounds rare, it is, incredibly so—Al.com reports the condition, which also includes the absence of nasal passages and sinus cavities, is known as complete congenital arhinia. It's thought to occur in one of 197 million births; there are only 37 known cases on the planet. No one had seen it coming: McGlathery even recalls discussing the cute appearance of her son's nose in a 3D ultrasound photo, which captures bone; he does have a small protrusion of bone there.
A GoFundMe page set up for Eli explains that he had to have a tracheotomy and feeding bag inserted into his stomach; as a 2008 study on a case of congenital arhinia explains, "neonates are obligate nasal breathers," and the "simultaneous sucking and breathing requirement" can lead to respiratory distress. With the trach in place, McGlathery has since been able to breastfeed him. What lies ahead: at least 10 years of scans and checkups every few months, the construction of nasal passageways, and plastic surgery to have a nose built. The nose will come later. As the 2008 study notes, reconstruction should occur "near adolescence because growth of the reconstructed nose is unpredictable if done earlier." McGlathery isn't rushing things: "We think he's perfect the way he is. Until the day he wants to have a nose, we don't want to touch him." (Another incredible story: a baby born with half a heart.)