Camden Whiddon was born without arms or legs, but the four-year-old did have plenty of determination. And with the cheers of his family ringing out all around him, he accomplished something that might have seemed impossible – until it actually happened.
Eighteen-year-old Texas resident Katie Whiddon found out that she was having a baby, and 18 weeks into her pregnancy, her doctor scanned her belly. The ultrasound revealed that her baby-to-be didn’t have arms or legs.
The doctor said that Katie’s unborn son had amelia-phocomelia, a condition that leaves a developing embryo without the usual number of limbs. As for Camden, he had tetra-amelia, which meant he had lost all four. In most cases, tetra-amelia is passed on by two parents who have the recessive gene who don’t have any outward indications that they’re carrying it.
Katie was understandably shaken by the diagnosis. “When I first found out he wouldn’t have arms or legs, I thought that he would just be a vegetable… I didn’t know what to expect,” the soon-to-be mother-of-four told People magazine.
On top of that, Katie worried that she wouldn’t be able to care for her baby – she was only a teenager herself, after all. “I had just turned 19, and I didn’t know, ‘Am I going to be able to be good enough for him?’” she admitted.
But her fears quickly subsided after Camden’s birth, as he showed his determination early on. “When he was around two months old, I had him laying on my bed,” Katie recalled. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and he was hitting the toys with his arms.”
That would be the beginning of her son’s many milestones, which would often elicit the same reaction from his doting mom. Remembering that time when she’d first seen him play, for instance, Katie said, “I started to cry. I was just so happy, and that confirmed that he was going to be able to do things.”
From there, Camden continued showing his mom what he could do. The baby not only learned to lift his head but also rolled over and tossed toys too. After that, Katie knew that her son was a force to be reckoned with. “He’s shown me how I don’t need to doubt him,” she said.
And by the time that Camden was four, he was ready to wow his entire family once again. He sat on the floor in front of Cole Greene, his mom’s fiancé and the man he called “Daddy.” Katie, 23, filmed a video she later put on Facebook as Greene says, “There you go. Come here, come on!”
“You’re doing it!” Greene says. And then he continues, “You’re sitting up all by yourself! You’re not falling.” But it turned out that he isn’t motivating Camden to prop himself up – Greene is trying to get the four-year-old to take his first steps.
Greene has his arms extended towards Camden as he encourages the young boy to move forward. “You’re almost here,” Greene says. Meanwhile, Katie can barely contain her excitement from behind the camera. “Camden, I’m so proud of you, buddy,” she says.
With his family rallying behind him, Camden then takes his first steps. “I’m walking!” he exclaims. Greene replied, “You are. You are walking, buddy!” As Camden inches closer to her fiancé, Katie informs them both that she is “seriously crying.”
Then Camden’s younger sister, Ryleigh, comes to join the celebrations. She sits down next to her big brother and watches as he makes it all the way to Greene. “Now, fall to me,” Greene says, catching Camden as the youngster leans toward the finish line.
With that, everyone in the room celebrates. Ryleigh jumps up and down as she shouts, “Yay!” Katie tells her son that she is “so proud” of him. And Greene scoops the four-year-old into his arms, saying delightedly, “That’s my boy!”
As for Camden, all he wanted to do was see the video his mom had made of him walking – and it seemed the rest of the world did too. Katie shared the clip to her Facebook page, where it quickly went viral – in ten months, it racked up more than half-a-million views.
Receiving such attention wasn’t an entirely unique experience for the Whiddons, though. For one thing, Katie regularly posted images of Camden online – she used social media to share his condition with the world. Moreover, another video she posted to Facebook proved even more popular than the one of her son walking.
In September 2017 Katie shared a clip of Camden and Ryleigh having fun together in a playground. That video garnered 223,000 shares, 10,000 comments and a whopping 15 million views. What’s more, someone very special reposted it onto her Facebook page as well.
“Way to go, Camden. Sending you lots of love,” wrote talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who linked to the clip. And the top comment on DeGeneres’s repost came from Katie herself, who replied, “Thank you so much for sharing this video of my babies and helping us spread awareness for the limb-different community!”
To that end, Katie told People that she imagined that her son, too, would spend his life raising awareness and goodwill towards his community. “Call it mother’s intuition, but I feel like he’s going to be one of those motivational speakers,” she said.
Regardless of what his future would hold, it was clear Camden had already changed one person’s life – his mom’s. “I never knew how much I needed a little boy without arms or legs until I looked at Camden for the first time,” Katie wrote in an Instagram post. “He changed me… into the person I am today and I am SO THANKFUL.”