During the two brief years that he lived, the only person who never seemed to notice anything different about little Eli Thompson was Eli himself.
His mommy saw it immediately, seconds after he was born.
“Something’s wrong! He doesn’t have a nose!” she shouted in the delivery room when she first held him on March 4, 2015, in a hospital in Foley, Ala.
Eli drew his first breaths through his mouth that day. He drew his last on Saturday night in a Mobile hospital.
“We lost our little buddy last night,” Eli’s father, Jeremy Finch, announced on Facebook Sunday.
“I’ll never be able to make sense of why this happened, and this will hurt deeply for a long time. But I’m so blessed to have had this beautiful boy in my life!”
Eli made headlines around the world because he was born with congenital arhinia, a rare facial anomaly said to happen in only 1 in 197 million births, according to AL.com, which chronicled Eli’s life.
Only 30 or so cases have ever been reported, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Eli lived the first months of his life in the eye of a publicity storm. Thousands of people around the world followed the blue-eyed boy’s story on a Facebook page. “Inside Edition,” People magazine, NBC’s “Today” show and other media outlets told his story.
Before he turned 6 months old, his parents broke up. There were scary trips to the hospital, weekly trips to the doctor and fundraisers thrown by family and friends wanting to help with the medical bills.
“He touched a lot of people’s lives,” Finch told AL.com. “A lot of people cared about him.”
Eli grew to love sweet potatoes, kisses and giving people fist bumps. He learned baby sign language, and his favorite sign was “cookie.” The first thing he did every morning was to ask for a cookie.
To his mother, Eli was perfect.
“When it’s your baby, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong, you love him, regardless,” his mother, Brandi McGlathery, told the Today show shortly after Eli was born.
“He’s just like any other baby. He just doesn’t have a nose.”