Parents fight back after terminally ill son turned into callous meme
An Alabama mother has warned other parents about the risks of posting images of their children online after a photo of her terminally ill son was turned into a callous meme.
Three-year-old Grayson Smith was born with 22 anomalies and his brave story drew immense praise across social media, until the other side of the Internet reared its ugly head.
"I was speechless and, honestly, didn't know what to think or feel at that moment," his shattered mother Jenny Smith said told ABC News.
"We were kind of horrified someone could be so cruel.”
One of Grayson's 15,000 Facebook followers contacted his mum to alert her of a meme with one of his photos that has been circulating on the Internet.
She reached out to the sites, asking them to remove the meme. Some took it down, and some did not, but she'll never stop trying to have the meme deleted.
A mother of four, she said her son suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and a terminal condition in which his brain matter protrudes outside his skull.
"My husband and I are trying to use it as a positive example.”
"No. 1, to let other families know that it can happen to them and, No. 2, try to educate people of children with special needs and that terminally ill children are not to be used for a gag or a laugh. This is someone's child and personal photo and not to be made into a joke."
On September 13 he underwent his 24th brain and head surgery to improve his quality of life. Despite his severe health problems, she said he remains "full of life.
"He is funny and sarcastic, very bossy," she added.
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"He does not act like he has a disability at all.
Physically, he's not able to walk or crawl, but he's smart. He goes to pre-K (kindergarten).
He's very involved in his class, especially with the girls. He's very loving. He'll tell me, 'I love you,' and give me a bear hug, and he's very attached to his daddy."
To gain support from others, Jenny Smith and her husband, Kendyl Smith, shared Grayson's journey on his YouCaring and Facebook pages.
She said the Facebook user recognised Grayson in a picture taken from his first field trip, to a pumpkin patch in October 2015.
The mean-spirited meme reportedly pokes fun at his unique appearance.
After Googling the image, Mrs Smith learned it has been shared across several websites. She believes the photo was lifted from her Facebook page, titled Grayson's Story.
"You have to stand up and fight for yourself and have love and care and respect for others, but I still want them to take it down, because it's not right," Mrs Smith said.
"One by one, it might take me a long time, but Grayson's a fighter, so his father and I have to exemplify what he does for us."
She added, "There's always that chance that we could wake up one morning that he could not be there, so ... we enjoy every day with him."