What you would probably notice first about Thomas Richards are his eyes.
He’s just 17 months old, but perhaps because he is unable to speak, he uses his eyes the way other babies coo and babble. All the subtle little muscles around his eyes go to work. They engage you.
And then comes the grin. Once Thomas has caught your eyes, he delivers his drooly grin.
Jennifer Delaney, the doctor who delivered Thomas at Ministry St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Marshfield, remembers being startled by Thomas’ eyes.
Thomas was born without a trachea — the cartilaginous tube through which we breathe. The condition is called tracheal agenesis, and it is extremely rare. Fewer than 200 cases have been identified in more than a century.
The lifespan of an infant born without a trachea is measured in minutes. Such a baby dies silently, having never drawn a breath. Only a few of these babies, and only because of extraordinary surgical interventions, …