Doctors Thought He'd Never Survive, but Faithful Parents Refuse to Give Up on Baby with No Nose

Hally Wells | Contributor | Updated: Mar 15, 2024
Doctors Thought He'd Never Survive, but Faithful Parents Refuse to Give Up on Baby with No Nose

Doctors Thought He'd Never Survive, but Faithful Parents Refuse to Give Up on Baby with No Nose

Harrison "Gray" Canales has been defying medical odds for 22 years, and with a brand new nose, he's planning a bright future. One, no doubt, filled with major accomplishments!

Gray Canales is one of two sons of John and Mary Jo Canales of Flower Mound, Texas.

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Unexpected News From the Ultrasound

John and Mary Jo learned they were expecting their first child in 2001, and everything seemed to be going fine until the day of the sonogram at 20 weeks. Mary Jo told People, "The tech kept taking longer and longer, and then went to get the doctor. At that point we knew something was going on." Still, they were not prepared for the news that the doctor delivered.

Doctors told the couple that the images did not show a nose. They did not expect the baby to breathe on his own, and they feared he would not survive. Additional tests confirmed that Baby Canales did indeed not have a nose, had problems with his legs and feet, and likely would be born with some degree of brain damage.

Grey Canales’ Medical Challenges

For John and Mary Jo, a minister and church secretary, respectively, terminating the pregnancy was not an option. Mary Jo told People, "We thought, ‘This baby is still our gift and our joy, and you don't turn down a gift.' But I cried constantly. I had no idea if I'd get to meet my son."

Born five weeks early via an emergency C-section, Gray faced a myriad of medical challenges. As expected, Gray had no nose and was born without eyelids. Gray's little legs were turned in more than 90 degrees, his feet were missing toes, and he'd been born without a right frontal lobe.

This left him with limited mobility on his left side. However, the infant was able to breathe on his own, and he was even able to leave the hospital NICU after only one week!

Once home, Gray's care required tremendous time and energy. The couple exercised their son's legs, cleaned and dressed his nasal area, and constantly lubricated his eyes until he was given eyelids through surgery at six months.

Nearly 30 Surgeries

Gray Canales is now 22 years old, and he has had nearly 30 surgeries. Eleven were connected with his nose reconstruction alone. Despite all of this, Gray is a healthy and happy young man. He enjoys baseball, listening to music, and helping at his church.

His parents homeschool Gray, and he has grown up with the same friends he made in childhood. His tight-knit church community has provided him with stability and abounding love. Gray shared, "I watch movies with friends, play video games. Nobody has ever treated me differently."

John and Mary Jo Are Like Any Other Parent

While John and Mary Jo have worked tirelessly to provide their son with the best and most "normal" upbringing possible, they don't claim to be special. John stated, "People say ‘God gives special-needs kids to special parents,' but we were like every other parent, just dealing with each day as it comes."

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Likewise, Gray's parents have instilled determination and resilience in their son. Reverend Canales says, "We taught him not to feel sorry for himself," because many other people deal with disabilities too. We told him, ‘This is the way God made you. That's all.'"

Total Nose Reconstruction

Gray Canales is now left with only two surgeries remaining. He has had a total nose reconstruction, which is a very rare and complicated process. Along the way, Gray has had cartilage from his ribs and skin from his thighs grafted, and he's had a skin expander inserted in his forehead to create excess skin to be used during the reconstruction surgery.

Dr. James Thornton, Gray's reconstructive surgeon at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said, "Very, very few people have had to do total nasal reconstruction. Just to make the base [required] an 11-hour operation skin tissue transfer from his arm. It's very difficult."

Soon, the arduous process of building Gray's nose will be fully completed, and he hopes to have a nose that looks like his paternal grandfather's; he is an artist in New York. Gray says, "I can't wait to not have my life interrupted by surgeries anymore. I can finally start planning ahead."

His plans include taking vocational training with the Texas Workforce Commission. Gray hopes to help others with disabilities learn to manage daily challenges.

John and Mary Jo have “drained their savings” over the years to pay for Gray's medical bills, but they have no regrets. If you would like to donate to Gray’s nose reconstruction fund, check out: his GoFundMe.

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

This article originally appeared at Used with permission.

Image Credit: YouTube/American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)

Hally is a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate. A former school counselor, Hally works for a nonprofit that distributes tax dollars to mental health and prevention education providers that serve her county's kids and families. She's a contributor to a devotional and two essay collectives, and she shares resources and wisdom regarding parenting teens, mental health, faith, adoption, and more at where she strives to "Dig Deep and Reach High." She and her husband have three adult children and one rascally beagle pup. Hally loves travel, her book club sisters, personality tests, and a great glass of iced tea.

Doctors Thought He'd Never Survive, but Faithful Parents Refuse to Give Up on Baby with No Nose