3-year-old MS girl beats odds, will have life-changing surgery

WEST POINT, MS (WMC) - Beating the odds.

It's the inspiring story of a 3-year-old Mississippi girl who doctors thought would never survive an awful diagnosis.

Zoey is missing part of her skull, and other parts of her face are severely deformed, but doctors say they can create a brand new face.

The diagnosis was grim--24 hours--that's how long doctors thought Zoey would live, and if she did, she would be mentally delayed, but her parents had faith and little something else.

This is a story about love.

"We met in high school," Zoey's mom, Tishana Alford, said.

The football player and the girl in the band--they met during a group project in physics class at West Point High School.

"So after the football game, he was like 'let's catch a movie afterward,' and I was like 'this has nothing to do with physics,'" Tishana said.

It wasn't physics, it was chemistry. The perfect love story--high school sweethearts who eventually got married and prepared to turn their love story of two into three.

But this is also a story about heartache.

"The doctor says your baby has a misshapen head," Tishana said.

The love story was tested.

"He said 'yeah, my job is not to give you a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my job is to tell you the facts and the facts are you have a child that is not going to be normal,'" Tishana said.

The diagnosis was Frontal Encephalocele--the neural tube did not close during pregnancy.

Doctors said many babies with this condition die before birth.

"The nurse is there with the clipboard, and the doctor said 'we can go ahead and schedule you for your termination of pregnancy,'" Tishana said.

Every week, every check-up, Doctors asked Tishana and Quantrel if they wanted to end their pregnancy, but after giving birth to stillborn twins just a year earlier, they were determined to continue their love story.

"It was one of the most amazing feelings I've ever felt. Just looking at her," Quantrel said.

Zoey Grace was born at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, and she wasn't supposed to live past 24 hours.

But Zoey beat the odds the odds; she kept growing and thriving and proving the doctors wrong.

Now 3 years old, Zoey is developing just like any other toddler.

She's smart as a whip, but Zoey undoubtedly looks different. She's missing a nostril and has a partial cleft palate.

"Zoey's eyes are pretty much too far apart," Tishana said.

And her brain protrudes from her forehead only covered by skin. The constant stares and whispers by people were taking a toll on the family.

"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,'" Tishana said.

Doctors initially told the Alfords it would take up to 13 surgeries to reconstruct Zoey's face.

"I was like 'nine to 13 surgeries?' I was like that just seemed like too much for a little baby to have to go through," Tishana said.

She did a search online and came across Boston Children's hospital that said they could possibly fix Zoey's face in one surgery.

"It was a no-brainer for me," Quantrel said.

But first doctors would have to see her in person.

So last week they packed up the van and hit the road--a 222-hour road trip from Mississippi to Boston. Zoey can't fly because of her condition.

Once they finally arrived in Boston, Zoey underwent a series of medical tests.

Doctors confirmed that Zoey was a candidate for surgery--one surgery this summer and possibly one follow-up surgery.

Who knows, this time next year Zoey may not have to wear the mask to protect the hole in her face.

She can be just a normal kid, and that would be the perfect ending to this love story.

Zoey's surgery is scheduled for late July.

Right now, the family is surviving on a single income since Tishana can't work.

As you can imagine, the costs surrounding this surgery and travel for care has been tremendous.

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