MOBILE, Ala. – An Alabama toddler who drew worldwide attention after he was born without a nose has died.
Eli Thompson's father, Jeremy Finch, posted the news Sunday on the social media site Facebook, a day after Eli was pronounced dead at Springhill Medical Center in Mobile. Thompson had turned 2-years-old March 4.
Finch's post expressed sadness, saying, "We lost our little buddy last night. I'll never be able to make sense of why this happened, and this will hurt deeply for a long time. But I'm so blessed to have had this beautiful boy in my life!"
Multiple media outlets report Thompson was born with congenital arhinia, an extremely rare birth defect that affects only one in 197 million births.
"He finished his race a lot earlier than we would have liked, but it was God's time to bring him back home," Finch's post continued. "I'll forever look forward to seeing him at the gates of Heaven waiting on me to give me another one of his famous fist bumps! I love you little man. Rest in peace with my Father."
Finch told Al.com that the family is finalizing funeral arrangements.
The little boy used baby sign language, and Finch told the news site in an interview that his son was beginning to do speech therapy at home with a speaking valve. "His favorite sign was 'cookie'," he said. The first thing he did every morning was to ask for a cookie, and he recently received the "Cookie Monster Award" from his daycare, Finch said.
"He touched a lot of people's lives," Finch said, with tears in his voice. "A lot of people cared about him."