Former Yokota High student aims to raise awareness about ‘limb-different’ kids
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 19, 2017
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A toddler with links to the U.S. military community in Japan who was born without forearms and legs has become an online sensation after his mother posted videos of him to raise awareness of the challenges faced by disabled kids.
Camden Whiddon, 3, whose mother, Katie, 22, attended Yokota High School when her Air Force veteran father was stationed in western Tokyo, was diagnosed with Amelia-phocomelia syndrome — a disorder that leads to malformed or missing limbs.
“They said it could be something genetic but they haven’t found anything abnormal. It’s likely just this random thing that has happened,” said Katie Whiddon, who now lives in Denton, Texas, and shares stories about her son and other “limb-different” kids on her blog, Admirably Diverse.
Some of her videos of Camden have gone viral. A clip of him clambering up a playground slide got 14 million hits on Facebook while another of him putting a pacifier in his 3-month-old baby brother Jaxton’s mouth got 8 million hits, said Katie’s father, Mark Bender, who runs the popular YokotaTalk Facebook page. It was also featured on NBC’s “Today” show website.
When the family was interviewed recently by Piers Morgan on the “Good Morning Britain” TV program, Camden’s sister Ryleigh, 2, stole the show by wandering around the studio with a box on her head.
Katie Whiddon, who received medical care through the military’s Tricare plan while she was pregnant, said she found out about Camden’s missing limbs after having an ultrasound. She worried about what his future might hold.
It wasn’t until Camden was about 2 months old that the family realized how active he could be.
“He started picking up toys and … at 6 months old he started rolling around and sitting up. Now he’s able to do things like pick up balls, climb stairs and slide down a slide by himself,” she said.
Katie described Camden as “the liveliest kid I know,” and “just like my dad, who is also the happiest person I know.”
During a Skype video call with Stars and Stripes, Camden sat beside his mother, smiling, and said, “Hi,” while she described him as a typical kid.
“He likes to aggravate his mother,” she said. “He likes to mess with his sister. He likes stacking up his blocks as high as he can reach and then he will knock them down. I think he is going to be an engineer when he grows up because he is so smart.”
Many of the people posting comments under Camden’s videos have suggested fitting him with the sort of robotic arms that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed for soldiers who have lost limbs fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bender said the family is interested in talking to people in organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project about how they help troops with missing limbs.
Camden, who spends his days playing with his brother and sister at home, only wants a wheelchair right now, his mother said.
“Prosthetics are not something we are pushing on him,” she said. “That technology will be important to him when he is grown up but being able to feel what he is touching is very important to him.”