WEST POINT, MS (WMC) - A little girl born with a severe birth defect now has a new beginning!
Her name is Zoey Grace, and thanks to a life-altering surgery, the holidays are even sweeter this year.
We first met 3-year-old Zoey Grace six months ago, a little girl who had never been outside to play without a mask to protect her body from complications caused by a severe birth defect.
“I had an incident at Walmart where a little boy said 'mom, look at that baby, that baby is hideous. She doesn't have a nose.' And she was like 'well, you have your nose and you're beautiful. Come on. Thank God you don't look like her,’” said Zoey’s mom Tishana Alford.
Zoey's appearance is the result of a rare condition called frontal encephalocele, when the neural tube fails to close during fetal development, causing the brain to protrude through openings in the skull.
Doctors feared she wouldn't survive. Less than one percent of babies are born with the defect.
But three years later, Zoey is defying the odds.
In July, she and her mom and dad traveled to Boston for surgery to close the hole in her face and correct her cleft palate.
But the procedure, which lasted more than 10 hours, encountered complications.
“That was the three hours to where I thought I burned a hole in the carpet walking back and forth,” Tishana said. “Everyone's like sit down. Relax. I'm like no, something's not right.”
Tishana and Quintrel were looking for the doctors at Boston Children’s hospital to finish what didn’t happen in the womb.
“They didn't anticipate that when they would cut across the skin, when they pulled back her skin, blood vessels had connected to her brain, so they had to tediously disconnect the blood vessels,” Tishana said.
It was a small setback, but in 10-and-a-half hours, doctors were able to give Zoey a new face.
They created the skull, replaced the hole in her face with a nose, and removed her cleft palate.
Four months after surgery Zoey Grace is doing great and getting accustomed to her new facial features.
“She's like my nose is running, my nose is running! But I'm like no it's just air. It's a functioning nose now,” Tishana said.
She's not camera shy, nor is she shy to finally do things she couldn't do before.
“She skates, runs, and plays,” Quintrel said. “She's a normal 3-year-old now.”
Zoey will go back for a follow-up surgery in one year to smooth out her forehead and create a bridge for her new nose.
A finale for this miraculous journey for one special little girl.
“I was a proud mama,” Tishana said. ‘I was like, that’s my baby.”
The bill for building a new face for Zoey was $300,000.
Many of our viewers and people in Zoey’s community donated about $50,000 to help the family.
The Alford’s say they are waiting to see how much of their insurance will pay, but no matter what, they say it was worth every penny.