The nurse turned around to the doctor. She was holding a copy of the scan in her hands. Everyone in the room was waiting to see what the scan showed, yet the nurse hadn’t handed it over. She stood there in shock. The doctor and everyone else in the room seemed worried about her behavior.
A call of her name snapped her out of it. She handed the scan over to the doctor. When he saw it, he understood her shock.
Shelley and Rob Wall had a happy marriage. They lived an idyllic life in Cumbria in North West England with their two daughters.
They believed that they were good parents and that they had a lot of love to give. With such a great capacity to love, they decided that there was only one thing that they could do to give them peace of mind.
After deciding that they wanted to have more children, Shelley successfully became pregnant. The pair were delighted at the prospect of another kid.
In a house full of girls, both Shelley and Rob wanted to have a son. For Rob, it would mean having a boy that he could bond with over football and sports that his daughters simply weren’t interested in. However, a trip to the doctor’s office put those dreams in doubt.
Trips to the hospital are regular occurrences during pregnancy. The health of both the mother and the baby need to be closely monitored.
Shelley and Rob didn’t need to have this explained to them. They had been through it twice before and felt comfortable with the experience. But something awaited them that they had never prepared for.
The Walls’ comfort around doctors was conditional to previous experiences being good. This latest visit to the doctor wasn’t good. In fact, it was terrible. The baby boy in Shelley’s womb had an abnormality in his skull. It appeared as though he only had two percent of his brain.
And, despite the terrible news, Shelley and Rob decided what they wanted to do, right then and there.
Naturally, this news was devastating for Shelley and Rob. They had so many hopes and dreams for their child. Now, the quality of that child’s life would drop dramatically. A bleak picture of the life that child would live was painted by the doctor.
Noah had developed essentially no brain matter at this juncture and he also had spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and the spinal cord don’t form properly. Seeing upset Shelley and Rob were, the doctor made a radical proposal.
Abortion is often a drastic option for any mother to be to take. As far as the doctor was concerned, the drastic option was the right one in this case.
He told them that the life expectancy of their boy would likely be short and even if it wasn’t, he would require constant care. Was this the kind of life they wanted for their boy and for their other daughters? Shelley and Rob had a decision to make.
Shelley and Rob thought things over. They went home and looked at their girls, not having the heart to tell them the bad news.
They adored their children and hated to ever see them sad. In the adoration, there was an answer. Shelley and Rob had committed to having a new baby.
If they had been younger, they may have opted for abortion, they said. But they would love this child no matter what. They would keep the baby… although, throughout the pregnancy, Shelly was advised to terminate no less than five times.
Nevertheless, the couple remained steadfast, even when the harsh reality of the situation became painfully clear.
Shelley continued with her pregnancy, trying not to think about whether she had made a mistake. There was no going back now.
The odds were against the baby from its conception. Yet Shelley and Rob held out hope that their boy could make it. And it’s a good thing that they did.
On March 6, 2012, Noah came into the world via c-section. Shelley knew what to expect. Doctors had warned the family that their son would be paralyzed from the chest down and could be born with other abnormalities.
Despite her fears, Shelley couldn’t wait to meet her son for the first time. There were 12 doctors in the operating theatre, but as he came into the world, they were given a sign.
Noah let out a big, healthy scream the moment he was born, letting his parents know that he had arrived.
To give him a fighting chance, a doctor placed a shunt in Noah’s skull to drain the excess fluid and relieve the pressure on his brain tissue. His parents could only wait and see how he developed.
Shelley and Rob had no expectations for Noah in the early days of his life. They were simply happy that their boy was healthy and happy.
What’s more, Noah was able to breathe, eat, and drink because of his brain stem. He was paralyzed from the waist down but this never seemed to affect his mood. He was a happy little boy. It made Shelley and Rob wonder how Noah could be thriving with so little of his brain.
Noah was developing at a rate that could hardly be explained. Before his birth, doctors warned that he would have severe special needs.
Yet he was coming on three-years-old and didn’t seem to be behind most kids his age. He was aware of everything going on around him, appeared emotionally intelligent, and he was even starting to talk. Another trip to the doctor’s office was required.
With Noah collecting milestones like leaves from a tree, his parents wanted to know how his brain looked. A second scan had to be taken.
The nurse came back from the other room with the scans and looked visibly shocked. ‘You’re not going to believe this,’ she said.
The doctor took the scan from the nurse and put on his glasses. Fixing them at the top of his nose, he examined the scan. ‘She’s right,’ he said. ‘I can hardly believe this.’
Doctors and nurses are no stranger to bizarre medical phenomonens but they had never seen anything like this. What had they discovered that had caused so much shock?
Shelley and Rob couldn’t believe what the doctor was telling them. Nobody could have prepared them for the scan that this doctor had.
Noah, the boy who had two percent of his brain at birth, now had over 80 percent of his brain. He had grown his brain back. It was truly a medical miracle. But how?
“It’s a very emotive subject. Some people say you can’t grow a brain, some say his brain was there, all squashed up, so when he’s had his shunt fitted, it’s gone back to where it should be,” Rob told Good Morning Britain.
“But if his brain was so squashed up, he should have been so severely mentally disabled.” So how had Noah’s brain grown?
Dr. Gregory Scott, a neuroscience researcher at Imperial College London, believed that the shunt had made space for the brain to grow.
Yet this was only a theory. Scott couldn’t prove it and thus it shows how little we truly know about one of our most vital organs; the organ that keeps everything ticking – the brain.
The brain controls thought, memory, emotion, motor skills, breathing, touch, vision, hunger, temperature and every single process that regulates our body.
But the ‘how’ behind the miracle of Noah’s brain wasn’t too important to Shelley and Rob. They were simply delighted by what was. And they knew the next steps to take.
“To hear his brain’s almost back to normal is beyond belief,” Shelly Wall said.
“Rob and I broke down when we heard the news. It was like a dream. I’ve never known anything like it. Even the consultants were in tears. Every time we see the doctors, they just shake their heads. They’re just amazed at what he can do,” she continued.
Noah’s parents and older sister Steph, 23, work hard to always be around him. They continually keep his brain stimulated, to aid its growth – his family call this “brain-training.”
Brain training is also known as cognitive training and is used to maintain and improve cognitive abilities by performing regular activities.
By the time Noah was four years old, he was able to go to school, could count to 10, read, and talk. He can even use a pen.
He has overcome several challenges already that no one thought he would even be capable of. And little Noah wants to become a firefighter when he grows up.
Shelly told the Chronicle Live in 2017: “Noah’s doing amazingly well—he can write, he knows how to spell his name, he can hold a conversation.”
Noah was quickly proving his doctors and other medical professionals wrong. Nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
“He has been chatting so much more and pronouncing his words,’ Shelly explains in the show. He has started writing, he can follow my finger and write his name.”
“His concentration was just unbelievable with the pen, I didn’t know that this day would ever come. You can see the excitement, and he knows that he had done something amazing… he amazes us every day.”
Mr. and Mrs. Wall have dedicated their time to his brain development and have taken him to Australia to a radical brain training center. Noah now wants to learn to walk and wants to continue learning how to surf and even start skiing.
Noah’s story received a lot of media attention. His story was uplifting and made people hopeful.
Noah continues to undergo ‘neurophysics’ treatment, a combination of physiotherapy and cognitive exercises that include horse riding, surfing, and even skydiving. They even had a belief that Noah would still be able to walk in the future.
For the whole family, things appeared to be looking up.
Mr. Wall explained that the experts don’t usually give the therapy to kids because of the cognitive side of things but they were lucky enough to be able to persuade them to see and assess Noah and prepare them for when he’s old enough to have that cognitive treatment.
All in all, the little boy’s future looks bright and his story teaches us an important lesson.
Writing on the Hugs for Noah website, Shelly said she hopes Noah’s case will raise awareness about the importance of taking folic acid during pregnancy. This can prevent spine and brain defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who wish to conceive are advised to consume around 400 mcg of folic acid per day. “Even though I took it I didn’t take it early enough,” she wrote, “No one told me just how important folic acid was.” But that’s not all…
Without getting into a debate about the ethical arguments around abortion, we can say that Noah’s story is one of human hope and positivity.
His parents were told that looking after Noah would be tough. And while taking care of him isn’t easy, there’s not a day that goes by without them thanking their lucky stars. They had faith in their boy and they are being rewarded with a starring role on the most fulfilling of journeys.