When Noah Wall was born with just 2% of his brain due to a combination of rare genetic disorders, doctors told his devastated parents that will never walk, talk, or eat on his own. Noah’s odds of living past age one were so slim, his parents had chosen a coffin and were already arranging his funeral before he was even born. Nine years later, Noah has grown 80% of his brain and dreams of becoming an astronaut.
Against all odds
Noah was diagnosed in the womb with spina bofida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, causing the baby to be paralyzed from the chest down. Early brain scans showed that the baby was missing most of its brain due to a porencephalic cyst in his head which was destroying his brain.
That’s not all. Doctors believe little Noah also developed Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome, both very rare genetic disorders with low odds of survival.
Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of all or part of chromosome 18, rather than just the two copies found in a healthy person. Only 13 in 100 babies born alive with Edwards’ syndrome will live past their 1st birthday.
Patau’s syndrome is also a trisomy, this time the additional copy lying in chromosome 13. Only one in 10 children diagnosed with this rare genetic disorder survive past one year.
Shortly after the boy from Cumbria, UK, was born, the baby made a life-affirming scream. “It was incredible. It was emotional,” said mother Michelle Wall, who works as a full-time carer. That was the first surprise, given that doctors expected a stillborn.
When doctors performed an MRI scan, they were shocked to learn that Noah was actually born with just two percent of his physical brain due to a rare condition called hydrocephalus, which caused fluid to accumulate in the brain. Surely he’d live the rest of his few remaining days in a vegetative state, they all thought.
But somehow the brave boy made a miraculous recovery. Recently, he celebrated his 9th birthday and he’s doing fairly well. He reads, does math, and even loves science, according to his mother, who home-schooled him. And although he’s wheelchair-bound, little Noah has been surfing and skiing.
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His meteoric recovery began seven weeks after he was born, when doctors fitted a shunt into his head and a soft tube through which excess fluid was drained. This made room for his brain to start growing its missing parts and neurons. Some doctors believe his brain was actually squashed and later expanded after room was made.
Unfortunately, the brain-spinal cord connection was not regenerated, so little Noah cannot walk. But otherwise, Noah seems to have developed into a fully functional nine-year-old boy, which is almost a miracle considering what he went through.
“It’s astonishing to me how smart he is. Every single day he does something that impresses me. He’s even started using aftershave in preparation for puberty,” said mother Michelle. “I’m so extremely proud of him. He’s my son. His goal in life is to run, it’s what he wants to do. I will help him all I can and always be there for him.”
Noah is a patron of Variety, an NGO that works with disabled, sick, and disadvantaged children, as well as The Music Man Project, which promotes disabled children on Britain’s biggest stages. Follow Noah on Instagram.