When Catherine Long was pregnant, she received the news that her unborn daughter, Alana, suffered from a rare birth defect called encephalocele, which causes part of the brain to grow outside the skull in a mass attached to the baby’s head.
Alana’s prognosis was poor; children born with the condition who manage to survive can suffer from paralysis, developmental delays and seizures, according to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Just eight days after Alana was born in February 2015, she underwent surgery at St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, England, to remove the mass, Express reported.
Alana has since developed slower than most infants, but nearly a year after her birth, her mother says she's doing well.
"If you look at her now, she is like any normal little girl," Catherine said.
"We decided to give her a chance to live a normal life, but we do think that Alana will be severely disabled," she added. "She is still going strong and laughing, though.”
Catherine admits she was scared in the beginning but says she's happy with the choices she made for her daughter.
"Now she is a very content little girl and she doesn't cry, although can't express herself.
"She does scratch her face, and we think it is because she does not have pain perception but we are waiting to see.
"But she is a lovely girl to have, and she is very happy and always smiling, despite the challenges that she faces every day."