The car was packed and we were off for a family holiday, the first in 10 years. The beautiful South Coast of NSW was our destination. We arrived to perfect summer weather. Gerard and myself, Daniel ,14 years old, Nellie, 12 years old and William 3 years old.

Our first stop was the beach, William was in the water about an hour when he came up to me and said that his hands and feet were itchy. After examination, I discovered that his hands and feet were covered with tiny blisters filled with a water like substance. I was very concerned and took William to the local Doctor. The Doctor said there was a sand blight and that William had been bitten. He prescribed an ointment we were to apply every three hours. The ointment did not work and the blisters continued to burst and seem to spread at a rapid rate. The nights seemed to be the worst for William while we were on holidays, he was so itchy we needed to cover his hands and feet to prevent him from scratching and when you are only 3 years old, it is very frustrating.

When we returned from holidays, I took William to our family doctor who referred us to a skin specialist. He diagnosed William with Atopic Dermatitis. He prescribed cortisone cream with a Wax Moisturising Emulsifying Ointment to be applied every night then wrap Will’s hands and feet in greaseproof paper and cling wrap and bandage to keep the moisture in.

The bad, sad and painful times had arrived for William.

Things weren’t too bad for William while he was at home, we managed to keep the Dermatitis contained, however, the fun began when William started school. Wills was to go through the pain for about 8 years.

The summer months were not too bad, the salt water pool and Wills love for swimming made his feet and hands more bearable but winter was cruel. Wills hands had to be kept closed otherwise they would crack and bleed. The skin would go hard and scaly and would peel off in layers. During winter, Wills hands would be red raw and you could feel the pain that he was experiencing. It broke my heart to see my youngest son in so much pain.

I changed specialists to get a second opinion, but to no avail, the answers were always the same. We purchased every product for Wills to use, Shampoo without soap, hair conditioners , moisturisers, body creams and gels, but nothing seem to work.

As Wills grew older, the specialist advised us that Wills would improve every year, but this was not the case, if anything, it was getting worse. It got to a stage where Wills would not go to school. I spoke to Will’s teacher and we had an agreement, on the bad days, I would write a note for Wills to be excused from writing for the day as his hands were so sore that he could not even open them to hold onto a pencil. Will’s school work did suffer due to this as well as him personally and his self esteem was so low.

I was at school helping with tuck shop one Monday and Wills, aged 9 at the time, was playing handball. All the other boys returned the ball with their hands open while Wills needed to return the ball with his hand closed shut.
The old saying is “children can be so cruel” is so true. The children at school would tease Wills about his hands and call him ‘Freak’. This did nothing for Wills school attendance. He refused to go to school and as I look back, I didn’t blame him. But Wills had to attend school, education is so important today, more than ever. I spoke to Will’s teacher and the school Principal and it was decided to work with Wills and help to educate other children to be more thoughtful for the feelings of those who were hurting or having difficulties. It was presented in the form of Religious Instruction as Wills attended a Catholic School. The lessons did work and the children became a little more understanding.

In 2002, my husband and I were involved in a home based business. The shower products claimed to be soap free and the nutritional products were good for you, so we tried them out on Wills. We removed all other products from our bathroom and informed Wills that he was only to use these new products. We would put the nutritional supplements out for him every morning and Wills would take them. The difference in Wills was unbelievable. His hands and feet cleared up in a fortnight and we had a happy, contented, well adjusted little boy. Wills continues to swim, play hand ball with open hands, ride a skate board with hands and fingers spread wide apart. His school work has improved and in year 6 he was the recipient of the School Spirit Award and an Achievement Award for Literature.

Not a bad effort for a wonderful brave little boy who would be missing on average 20 to 30 days of school per year due to his pain and not being accepted because his hands looked so different to everyone else in the class.

It is just as well they could not see his feet.