MOBILE, Ala. (KABC) -- Alabama mother Brandi McGlathery was the first in the delivery room to notice something wasn't quite right when they placed her son in her arms.
"I pulled him back so I could get a better look at him. Then I said, 'Something's wrong with him." My doctor said, 'No, he's perfectly fine.' I said, 'No he doesn't have a nose,'" McGlathery said.
Weighing 6 pounds and 8 ounces, baby Eli was born without a nose, nasal passage or sinus cavities. The disorder, called complete congenital arhinia, is so rare, experts say there are only 38 known cases reported worldwide.
Within hours of his birth, Eli was whisked away to specialists
The doctor said, "'Brandy, I don't know what to tell you. I don't know how this happened, but you're right he doesn't have a nose,'" McGlathery said.
Eli's condition has baffled doctors since his mother's ultrasounds and tests showed no sign of abnormality.
He underwent a tracheotomy to help make breathing and feeding easier, but there will be several surgeries in his future.
"The life that was normal to us before isn't going to be the same anymore," McGlathery said. "It has to change in order to fit with him."
For now, McGlathery is grateful to finally have her son in her arms and to be home.
Eli will have to grow past puberty before his nasal passageways can be rebuilt surgically.
His family wants to spare him any unnecessary facial surgeries, because his mom says they think "he's perfect the way he is."