A mother has shared her heartbreak after sweet photos of her albino baby son were stolen by trolls and made into memes that went viral.
Mother-of-four and fashion designer Patricia Williams, 43, from Utah has two children who are albino.
When her youngest Rockwell came into the world in February 2018, his newborn photos were stolen and shared with nasty comments poking fun at his white hair, with captions that read ‘when she get pregnant by her sugar daddy’.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time Patricia’s children have been targeted because of their albinism. Rockwell’s older brother, Redd, has also been teased in the playground due to his skin.
Fashion designer Patricia Williams, 43, from Utah has opened up about the abuse two of her four children have received because they have albinism. Pictured: With her youngest, Rockwell
Her second son, Redd now seven, was born in August 2012. When he was a few months old, she noticed his eyes were constantly tracking from side to side.
After doing some research, she discovered that this was a common symptom with albinism.
‘Our seven-year-old, Redd, was two months old when we noticed his eyes constantly tracking side to side, so my husband decided to Google it,’ Patricia said.
‘The first thing he read was that it was a common trait in infants with albinism. At the time, I had never heard of the word “albinism” and had to ask what it meant.
‘I remember him looking at our son and saying, “white hair, pale skin, tracking of the eyes – he’s an albino.” My immediate response was, “No he’s not. Don’t they have red eyes?”.’
Patricia, and her husband Dale, 45, met with genetic specialists and an optometrist, and Redd was diagnosed with Oculocutaneous Albinism Type one (OCA1), which only affects around one in 17,000 worldwide.
When her youngest Rockwell came into the world in February 2018, his newborn photos were stolen and poked fun at, with nasty comments about his white hair
Her second son, Redd (pictured) now seven, was born in August 2012. When he was a few months old, Patricia noticed his eyes were constantly tracking from side to side. After doing some research, she discovered that this was a common symptom with albinism
Redd is legally blind, as he was born with nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes, and strabismus, commonly known as cross eyes.
‘When Redd was born, he came out with a full head of white hair and beautiful blue eyes.
‘At the time, we should’ve realized that there was something extra special with him when nurses – who were not our nurses – were coming in to see our “baby with the white hair”,’ Patricia continued.
‘My husband and I were both born with blonde hair, as was my oldest son, Gage. So seeing our second son with such blonde hair didn’t strike us as unusual.
The whole family! Patricia (centre) is pictured with her husband Dale, 45, (left), Wolfgang, five, (second left), Rockwell, now 21 months (on her lap), Redd, seven (second right) and Gage, 14 (right)
‘Our seven-year-old, Redd, was two months old when we noticed his eyes constantly tracking side to side, so my husband decided to Google it,’ Patricia said. Redd is pictured right holding his brother Rockwell, and Rockwell is pictured left with his grandmother
Patricia pictured holding her youngest son, Rockwell. When he was born they had more knowledge of albinism and began sharing pictures of him online
Gage (left) pictured with Redd (second left) Rockwell (second right) and Wolfgang (right) in their Halloween costumes
‘The first month we had him home I remember three things as being very unique. The first was his hair; it was so white that it would sparkle in the sunlight.
‘Second was the way his eyes were always tracking back and forth. I would try and block his view with my hands to see if he would divert his eyes down, but nothing ever worked.
‘Third was how his blue eyes would sometimes flash red when he was in certain light. This was by far the strangest occurrence, but with all of these things, I figured it was because he was a newborn and that he would eventually grow out of them.
Last year, Patricia gave birth to their youngest child Rockwell, now 21 months, who was also born with albinism.
Wolfgang, Rockwell and Red pictured together. Their parents were upset when meme of their son was shared and started to ask people to take images down, but they soon realised it was out of their control, and decided to ignore the joke
Rockwell pictured as a newborn. His parents now make it a mission to raise awareness of albinism so children don’t get bullied
Since they had more knowledge of the condition, they were able to prepare for the news.
It wasn’t until Patricia began posting pictures on social media that her youngest son became an internet meme that went viral.
Patricia and Dale, who also have sons Wolfgang, five, and Gage, 14, were both upset and would ask each person who shared the cruel jabs to take it down.
But they soon realized it was out of their control, and decided to ignore the joke.
Now they make it their mission to raise awareness of albinism to avoid children like her sons from being teased or bullied.
Patricia pictured with Redd, who is dressed as a vampire. Redd has had laser eye surgery to correct his strabismus and has recently moved from a private Blind School to a public school
Particia explained that when Redd would go to the playground, he would receive stares and his peers would tease him because he looked different, but his older brother Gage became protective of him.
‘When we confirmed that our son had albinism, I was initially shocked and did a lot of crying. I worried about my son’s future and how he would be treated.
‘I was unsure of how our dynamics as a family was going to change now that we had a son who burnt easily in the sun and would most likely be legally blind.
‘I feel like the attention and comments from strangers in public is much more common with our 21-month-old.
‘It’s very unusual to see a baby with white hair and Rockwell’s hair sticks straight up so it’s very noticeable.
Redd, Rockwell and Wolfgang pictured with a bunny. Patricia and Dale plan to spread awareness of albinism to prevent them and other children like them from becoming victims of bullying
Brothers in arms: Redd, who also has albinism, pictured giving his little brother Rockwell a tender kiss on the head
Speaking of the shocking response to her son going viral, Patricia added: ‘I never expected my son’s photos to go viral on social media. Once I started gaining more and more followers, I started getting asked so many questions and realised that albinism is still very unfamiliar to people.
‘Personal points of views were very misguided and based on what people saw in movies. I realised I had a rare and unique opportunity to educate and spread awareness, by means of social media and by sharing photos of our family.
‘On social media, one of Rockwell’s baby photos was actually turned in to a meme that went viral. At first, we were shocked and upset.
‘I even tried reaching out to individuals who were posting and begged them to remove it, but after discovering that we couldn’t stop it, we just rolled our eyes and realised it was out of our control. It wasn’t even that funny or clever anyway.’
What is Oculocutaneous albinism?
Oculocutaneous albinism is the most common type, affecting the skin, hair and eyes.
Those affected typically have very fair skin and white or light-colored hair. Long-term sun exposure greatly increases the risk of skin damage.
Oculocutaneous albinism reduces pigmentation of the colored part of the iris and the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the retina.
The condition can result from mutations in several genes, including those used to produce melanin.
Melanin is the pigment that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color. In the retina, melanin also plays a role in normal vision.
Oculocutaneous albinism is inherited in anautosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of a gene in each cell have mutations.
In most cases, the parents both carry a copy of the mutated gene but do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
1 in around 20,000 people around the world have some form of the condition.
There is no cure for the eye problems caused by albinism.
However there are a number of treatments, such as glasses and contact lenses, that can improve vision.
Redd has had laser eye surgery to correct his strabismus and has recently moved from a private Blind School to a public school. Patricia and Dale plan to spread awareness of albinism to prevent them and other children like them from becoming victims of bullying.
‘It was very successful, and I now tell any parents considering the surgery, that it was the best thing we could’ve done for Redd’s eyes.
‘The other alternative was to wear a patch, but that can take months to correct, not to mention draw unwanted attention so we opted for the surgery.
Patricia added that now he’s older, most of Redd’s friends don’t even notice he’s different.
‘If anything, they are aware that he needs his dark sunglasses, hat and sunscreen if they want to play outside, but other than that, he does everything that they can do.
Patricia added that now he’s older, most of Redd’s friends don’t even notice he’s different. ‘If anything, they are aware that he needs his dark sunglasses, hat and sunscreen if they want to play outside, but other than that, he does everything that they can do’ Redd is pictured in front of a graffiti wall
‘People with albinism are just like everyone else. One of the biggest misconceptions is that they have red eyes. Because their eyes lack pigment, it’s most common for them to have very light blue eyes.
‘Another large misconception with albinism is that he or she may have a mental disability, when this has nothing at all to do with albinism.
‘The scariest misconception is the way they are treated in certain parts of Africa, particularly Tanzania, where many of them are attacked and/or killed for their body parts.
‘It was sickening to learn that someone just like our Redd and Rockwell, has to fear for their life of being hunted.
‘People with albinism are just like everyone else. One of the biggest misconceptions is that they have red eyes. Because their eyes lack pigment, it’s most common for them to have very light blue eyes’ Patricia, pictured with her sons said
Giving advice to new parents who have a a child with Albinism, she added: ‘Join National Organisation for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) to reach out and find support groups online.
‘Whether you have a child with albinism, or a child with special needs, social media has been a huge factor in helping me find communities and resources.
‘I’m a member of three large albinism groups on Facebook and have become friends with many other parents of small children with albinism on Instagram.
‘I have learned so much from these groups and have been given so much support with all my questions and fears.
‘Through photos and posts, we’ve all watched each other’s children grow up and accomplish milestones that may seem small to others, but they’re huge to us. For example, when your baby first makes eye contact with you at around six to eight months old.
‘You feel like you’ve been waiting for this moment forever and it makes you want to cry. Just know that you are not alone and that there is always someone out there understanding your struggles and cheering you on.’