A Nevada mother was shocked to discover that she’d been reported for child abuse because of her son’s appearance due to a rare skin condition.
Valerie Jackson, a 35-year-old Las Vegas woman, said her son suffers from Netheron’s syndrome, a condition affecting only 70 people in the world, which causes the skin to look as though it has been severely burned. Because of the syndrome, Jackson regularly applies cream and petroleum jelly to her son so his skin doesn’t dry out.
“His skin is bright red and shiny,” she said of 4-year-old RJ. “I put Vaseline all over him two to three times a day to keep his skin supple but he is still sore. When he was younger he had to have it over his body every few hours — even in the night. We haven’t known sleep for about five years.”
RJ was diagnosed soon after his birth, and the condition was noticeable to Jackson and her husband, Reginald, almost immediately. “After an emergency cesarean, I knew something wasn’t right,” she said. “As RJ was lifted up and I saw him for the first time, I noticed an angry rash on his chest. He was rushed to intensive care where the rash seemed to spread before our eyes, his skin becoming even redder and cracking.”
Jackson said she’s constantly criticized and judged by others who assume she abuses her son.
“One woman came up to me and thought he was badly burnt,” she said. “She said sharply to me, ‘Excuse me, your child has caught the sun.’ I couldn’t believe it. But we’re used to the staring and ignorant comments. I think he is the most beautiful boy in the world.”
In one incident, Jackson was in a supermarket applying cream to her son’s skin when police officers confronted her. She subsequently discovered a shopper reported her to authorities for child abuse after seeing her son.
“We were in Wal-Mart in Las Vegas putting his creams on when we were surrounded by five armed police,” she said. “Their guns weren’t drawn. The officer asked what was going on. I explained and he apologized. But it just shows the extent of people’s ignorance.” Jackson said her family has learned to deal with the criticism they get from people who make false assumptions about RJ based on his appearance.
“I’m happy to explain what Netherton’s is, but most people jump to conclusions before I get the chance,” she said. “His brother and sisters are great with him, always helping out and standing up for him.
“Just like any other little boy, he throwing around a ball and is usually bubbly and happy, until his skin starts to hurt,” she continued. “Right now, RJ is too young to know that people make nasty comments, but I hope as he grows, his condition will be better known. It doesn’t matter how red his skin is, all I see is a beautiful little boy.”