Meet Camden Whiddon. He’s a cheerful 4-year-old boy who adores his younger sister and brother, and loves to go down slides. He was also born without any limbs.
But you might know all of that already — because his videos have gone viral in the past month.
When Camden’s mother, Katie Whiddon, posted an adorable video of Camden putting a pacifier in his baby brother Jaxton’s mouth on Facebook on Aug. 29, she didn’t give it a second thought. Whiddon had posted numerous photos and videos of Camden as a baby before and this was just another one of those cute moments.
This time, however, it was different. The number of views just kept growing exponentially before her eyes. On her Facebook page alone, the video has 8.5 million views so far.
The next video she posted, in which Camden can be seen using his whole body to climb up a set of stairs in order to go down a slide, now has more than 14.5 million views.
“I’ve always wanted a nice platform to raise awareness … but I never expected things to go viral,” 23-year-old Whiddon tells The Japan Times via Skype from Texas. “An hour later, it was 100 views and as the hours went on, it doubled and tripled and quadrupled and just got more and more and I was like, ‘This is insane!'”
Camden was born with Amelia-phocomelia syndrome, a birth defect that involves malformation of a baby’s limbs, which Whiddon found out when she was 18 weeks pregnant.
Whiddon, who had lived in western Tokyo for a couple of years as a teenager, was only 18 years old at the time of her pregnancy. Her doctor had warned her that her baby’s brain might never develop and his organs could fail before or after birth, and she imagined all of the things he would never be able to do. She scheduled an abortion but decided not to go through with it the day before her appointment.
“I thought, ‘Nobody needs to live like that’ … I felt like (the doctors) basically gave my baby a death sentence,” Whiddon says. “(However) I couldn’t do it because I am too selfish. … I needed to meet him even if it was for two seconds or two minutes. I needed to know who he is, what he looks like, hear him cry if it’s possible at all and when I finally said those words to somebody, I felt such peace.”
The video of Camden going up the slide shows how independent and determined he is. His younger sister, Ryleigh, goes up and down smoothly but Camden refuses to be helped. And his face bursts with happiness as he finally achieves his goal.
Camden became the focus of media attention in both the U.S. and overseas after the video he was in was shared by celebrities such as rapper Snoop Dogg and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Whiddon is aware of the perils that can come with becoming famous online, however, and tries to avoid reading negative comments.
Despite any inconvenience the fame has caused, Whiddon says she is still happy that the world has gotten to know her son and wants people to know they shouldn’t pity him.
“I know sharing Camden with the world is doing more good … he is one of the happiest kids that I know,” Whiddon says. “I don’t want anyone to be sad at all because he is able to do everything that he wants to do. Just because he is different from us doesn’t mean he can’t do those things — because he will. He will just do them differently.”