Even before Noah Wall was born, doctors didn’t think he would survive. A scan of his head revealed he had less than 2 per cent of his brain. Four years later, though, Noah is thriving, leaving doctors to wonder how his brain accomplished its astonishing recovery.

While he was in the womb, Noah developed a rare complication of spina bifida. His head filled with fluid and his brain was compressed against the interior of his skull. His parents were told that if he survived the birth, he would likely be severely mentally and physically disabled. The family prepared for the worst.

Yet somehow, Noah defied the odds, first, by breathing on his own at birth. His doctor decided that the only hope of his continued survival would be a shunt — a drain inserted in his brain to reduce the amount of fluid inside. He survived the operation, in addition to a procedure to close the gap in his spine from the spina bifida. Noah was defying all expectations, but just how he was surviving was a medical mystery.

Gradually, with the tireless care of his parents and a diligent program of brain training, Noah has fought back, reaching milestone after milestone over the years. But that’s not all — his brain has actually grown. A scan taken when he was three years old stumped medical professionals even further, when it showed Noah's brain had expanded to 80 per cent of a normal sized brain.

“I think Noah’s case tells us that we should look more at children and how the child’s brain achieves plasticity — it’s ability to recover,” says Dr. Gregory Scott, a neuroscience researcher at Imperial College London who has studied Noah’s brain. “If we can learn how it does that, then maybe we could improve the recovery of adults as well as children after a brain injury.”

UPDATE TO THIS STORY: The boy born without a brain is now a practical joker who loves playing Mario Kart

Noah is defying medical understanding, and his family is keen to take him to meet the world’s leading brain doctors to try and find out what his future might be. With access to the family’s own footage from even before he was born, Miracle Child follows Noah and his family on their journey.

 

 

Credits (Click to expand)

Narrated by

James Norton

Shooting AP

Hannah Stanton

Offline Editors

Liz Rowe

Chris Brown

DV Director

Freya Watson

Executive Producer

Alison Gregory

Producer

Holly Cocker

Director

Kate Monaghan