WHEN a picture of her baby boy spread over the internet, mum-of-four Patricia Williams was shocked.
The image of her white-haired 21-month-old son Rockwell, who is albino, was turned into a meme with the caption “when she get pregnant by her sugar daddy”.
She told Metro that, along with her similarly-upset husband Dale, they personally-messaged people asking them to take the photo down.
However, they soon realised it was spreading online too fast – and decided to use the attention it attracted to raise awareness of albinism, which is where people are born without pigment in their skin and hair.
The couple also have another son, seven-year-old Redd, who provided their first introduction to the condition.
“When Redd was born, he came out with a full head of white hair and beautiful blue eyes,” explains Patricia of the moment she first met him in August 2012.
What is albinism?
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition where people are born without any kind of pigment in their body.
Their body is unable to produce melanin (which gives you colour), and can affect the skin, eyes and hair.
This causes those who are born an albino to have very pale skin, eyes and hair, and the condition can affect all races.
There are two main kinds of albinism, which are oculocutaneous albinism and ocular albinism.
Albinism affects around one person in every 20,000.
Patricia – who also has two non-albino boys with Dale – explained that she and her husband were both born with blonde hair, as was their eldest son Gage, so she didn’t think anything of it.
Then, within the first month, she noticed how Redd’s hair would “sparkle” in the sunshine, his eyes were always “tracking back and forth”, and his blue eyes would “sometimes flash red” in particular lights.
She initially thought it was because he was a newborn and these were things he would “grow out of”.
“When we confirmed that our son had albinism, I was initially shocked and did a lot of crying,” recalled Patricia.
“I worried about my son’s future and how he would be treated.”
A genetics specialist and optometrist diagnosed Redd with oculocutaneous albinism type one (OCA1), nystagmus (an involuntary movement of the eyes), and strabismus (cross eyes), and he was certified legally blind.
When he started school he was often stared at or teased.
As such, Patricia and Dale want to raise awareness of albinism, and stop those with the condition – like sons Redd and Rockwell – being bullied.
She also revealed that once her son’s picture went viral, and she gained Instagram followers, people were asking her loads of questions.
For example, the mum explains that people with albinism are “just like everyone else” and usually have blue eyes due to lack of pigment – not red.
She adds that another misconception is they have mental disabilities, but this has nothing to do with albinism.
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