Over the years, we at Newsner have told many incredible stories about special children who survived against all odds. But few stories have touched the hearts of our readers as much as the case of Tomm Tennet.
As some may remember, Tomm was born with enough skin to cover a 5-year-old toddler. The little boy came into the world so wrinkled that doctors said they had never seen anything like it before.
“When he came out I was quite shocked (…) I didn’t think a human, or a little baby, could ever look like that,” Tomm’s dad, Geoff Tennent, told 60 Minutes Australia in 2003.
Since his remarkable birth, it has been a long and winding journey for Tomm and his family – but if we look at him today, 2021, it is difficult not to shed a tear …
A unique child
When Tomm Tennent was born, in South East Australia in 1993, his parents soon realized that he was going to be a special baby.
But before the birth, no one could have guessed that their boy would be described as a medical mystery. However, ultrasounds showed that not everything was how it should be.
When hearing this, Tomm’s parents didn’t know if they would keep the child.
”We sort of discussed this between us, and we decided what’s meant to be is meant to be and we went through with it,” Tomm’s dad, Geoff Tennent, said.
Despite all the tests and routine examinations, no one could have imagined the severity of Tomm’s condition. His parents admitted they were shocked upon seeing him for the first time.
Tomm’s mom, Debbie Tennent, was shocked when her son was placed on her chest in the delivery room.
“My heart came up to my throat, but at the same time it was lovely to pick him up and cuddle him,” she said.
To medical experts, the boy born wrinkled by an excess of skin was a mystery. They couldn’t figure out what was causing Tomm’s excessive skin, and as a result, they had no treatment and no cure. At first, they were left to hope that he would grow into his skin as he got older.
But Tomm was so unique that researchers decided to invest time and money into studying his case, in a bid to solve the mystery surrounding his condition.
In total, Tomm would spend two and a half months in a medical center, undergoing tests and analysis. Needless to say, scientists faced a huge challenge. Since Tomm was the first child on record born with so much skin, there were no precedents to turn to.
Of course, it was a very trying time for the Tennent family. No parent with a newborn baby wants to spend months at the hospital with all that entails. However, Geoff and Debbie, found energy when looking at their strong baby boy. Tomm always remained a lovable toddler, totally unaware of his condition.
Throughout this time, doctors continued to do everything in their power to find a solution to Tomm’s medical problems. After digging deeper they finally discovered something unexpected. The experts saw similarities between the way the Tomm looked and the Chinese dog breed Shar Pei. That discovery led them to some answers.
Researchers discovered Tomm’s level of Hyaluronic acid, found in skin, was 100 times higher than normal, which is also the case with Shar Pei puppies.
Given that the levels of Hyaluronic acid drop for Shar Peis as they grow up – leaving them with a more normal skin appearance – doctors hoped and prayed it would be the case for Tomm.
Luckily, it was.
According to his doctor, Dr. Andrew Ramsden, the condition would probably disappear as Tomm got older. And he was right.
Growing up, Tomm faced some challenges. He was loved and famous in his hometown, but some people could not help but tease him, especially when he started school. Some children didn’t want to play with him.
But he didn’t let himself be discouraged by this, and it did not take long before Tomm made many friends and became fully integrated into his school. During these years, Tomm still looked a little different, although it was not as bad as when he was born.
In 2003, he was asked if he was concerned about how his friends looked at him. Tomm answered: “Not really (…) because they are my friends and they don’t really care how I look like.”
Tomm also told 60 Minutes that when he looked at himself in the mirror he saw “a kind loving person.”
He continued: “Sometimes they (people) say I look cool, sometimes they say I look really cool, and sometimes they don’t say anything.
Of course, Tomm’s parents have always been very proud of their special son.
“He’s a good boy” (…) All he has achieved … he is doing good at school, he is doing good at everything,” his dad said.
His parents said that they knew from the moment he was born, they would never hide him. They rightly believe that beauty comes from within, and is more than skin deep.
Tomm Tennent today, update
Today it has been 28 years since Tomm was born and amazed the doctors After the documentaries made by 60 Minutes, an incredible number of people wanted to know how things went for the boy with the big smile and excessive skin. However, there have not been many follow-ups with traditional media.
And a look at social media still reveals little about the life that Tomm lives today. On his Facebook, it appears that he has married the love of his life, Hannah. The couple seem happy together, and they seem to live in Frankston, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.
”Life’s simple. You make choices, and you don’t look back” is a quote Tomm posted on his Facebook profile that probably sums up his mindset and whole life.
Surely it’s wonderful to see him today, with the same wonderful smile as 20 years ago?
Tomm is so inspiring! I’m so happy he has a fantastic family who treated him just like any other child and that he seems to be living a happy life with his wife.
When he was asked what he would change about himself, he answered: “Probably nothing.” Isn’t that how we should all view ourselves?