Rhys Williams received over 18,000 birthday cards from people across the country, and some even sent him gifts. The 14-year-old has epidermolysis bullosa, and he has lived his life constantly sore. While the cards don’t alleviate his physical pain, they give him reassurance that there are people out there who care about him and his well-being.
Epidermolysis bullosa is a rare disease that affects the skin. Someone with the condition has fragile skin that blisters at any impact: a minor injury, heat, rubbing scratching, using adhesive tape, etc. These usually form on the hands and feet. In more extreme cases, some blisters form inside the body, like the throat or mouth. This makes swallowing and eating very difficult. Kids with the condition are very limited in what activities they can participate in without being in excruciating pain.
The world is full of wonderful people ❤️️🎁https://t.co/KkgsFIiTQ1— Metro (@MetroUK) September 20, 2019
Rhys has lived with this condition all his life. When the BBC asked him about his day, he describes it as pain 24/7. The blisters and the soreness of his skin has made walking difficult for him. His fingers and toes are fused as well, so it’s hard to even do basic tasks. Blisters also form in his throat, so he has trouble swallowing or talking sometimes. One night, his pain was so intense, he told his mom that he wanted the “butterflies” to take him away because he couldn’t handle the soreness anymore. His mom was heartbroken when she heard that from him.
For his fourteenth birthday, his mom reached out to people to ask for some birthday wishes. She didn’t expect to receive over 18,000 cards. On top of that, Rhys also received hundreds of presents from kind strangers who want him to know that people are rooting for him. Reading each letter and opening every gift has given Rhys the strength to continue on. It made him feel a lot better to know that people actually care about him.
The cards don’t help with his physical pain, but they do make him feel less alone. As he deals with his condition through his teenage years, he may feel more and more isolated as he sees other people have the typical adolescent experience. With a constant reminder of boxes upon boxes of well-wishes, Rhys can always remember that people care about him.