Against all odds, Noah Connell, the first baby in the world to undergo mandibular jaw distraction surgery, recently celebrated his first birthday.
Son of 19-year old Jade Gordon and 17-year-old Kieran Connell, Noah is a special kid. His survival was “a massive milestone,” even moreso because the young parents “were told on numerous occasions that Noah wasn’t going to make it,” according to Gordon.
“For anyone, their baby reaching one is a big deal, but it was a bit bigger for us because we have had so many hurdles to overcome,” she said.
The baby was a surprise to his parents. Gordon herself did not even know she was pregnant until she was discovered to be in labor when she was taken to the hospital for stomach pains. “When he was born he looked like he had no jaw at all,” Gordon said.
Noah has an underdeveloped jaw, small neck, floppy airway, cleft palate, and is missing part of his spine. In his first year, his parents say that so much as swallowing a raindrop or his own saliva could have killed him. The surgery that saved his life, called mandibular jaw distraction, inserted a metal scaffold into his face, which his parents had to learn to carefully adjust over the course of three weeks following the surgery.
The painstaking process was successful, and his mother reports that his jaw has moved forward about four centimeters.
One year and eight grueling surgeries after his birth, Noah is inching closer to living “a normal life.” His mother said, “I don’t know how to feed a baby or make a bottle up,” but “dealing with tubes and wires are all normal to us because we don’t know any other way.”
For now, Noah subsists on 620ml of high-calorie solution fed through a gastrointestinal tube. It is meant to help him grow and gain weight as he recovers. With the continued perseverance of his parents and a bit of luck, the 1-year-old is on the road toward his second birthday.