A mom whose 2-year-old son has a rare, noncontagious skin disease posted on Facebook when she and her family suffered a humiliating experience at a water park.
Shannon Catalano and her family went to Gilroy Gardens amusement park in Gilroy, Calif., on June 4 to cool off on a hot day. Her son Wyatt — who was born with diffuse cutaneous mastocytosis, an incredibly rare skin condition marked by thickened skin and blisters — was wading in the shallow pool area. Shannon then saw a theme park employee approach her husband, Steven. “My husband was told he needed to speak with the EMTs, was asked to bring Wyatt with him, out of the pool, and was told it was regarding his condition,” she wrote on the Masto Wyatt Warriors Facebook page, which she started to help raise awareness of the condition.
The employee reportedly told Catalano and her husband that there had been several complaints and concerns about their toddler’s skin condition. “Wyatt looks different,” Catalano wrote in the post, which has been shared more than 2,000 times and has nearly 400 comments. “I get that. Some people are concerned about Wyatt being contagious or ‘his condition’ or whatever they’re concerned about. I get that, too. I understand that you might see my son and wonder or worry or may want to know why he looks the way he looks. I felt like a failure today. I have not done enough for my son. I have not reached enough people. Mastocytosis is still not a word that has come out of enough mouths.”
Catalano says that the way Gilroy Gardens treated the family was upsetting and disappointing. “I’m not appreciative that EMTs responded, alongside an employee, and made a huge scene. It felt overwhelming. I expressed how frustrating it was to have this experience the way it unfolded, how disappointed I was that someone didn’t just discreetly and politely ask, and how glad I was that my sweet Wyatt thankfully did not understand what was going on. In my head I kept feeling thankful that he was 2.”
What’s surprising is that the Wyatt is practically a local celebrity in Gilroy, according to the Gilroy Dispatch, and he’s known at Gilroy Gardens specifically. Wyatt was the grand marshal at Gilroy’s 2016 Christmas Parade.
Catalano tells Yahoo Beauty that she wishes the theme park would have handled the situation more quietly. “My husband and I would have preferred that Gilroy Gardens send a single employee, not EMTs, to discreetly and politely inquire about their concerns.”
Most people have not heard of mastocytosis, and it’s understandable that they’d be worried about a skin condition they’ve never seen before being contagious, so how should you handle it if you’re concerned? Ask the parent. “Knowledge is power, so we appreciate when people politely inquire about Wyatt’s rare disease,” says Catalano. “When someone approaches us and asks us about why Wyatt looks the way he does, it allows us the opportunity to educate them about mastocytosis and hopefully change their perception.”
She continues: “We hope to teach the world that Wyatt’s spots are handsome and, although there will be challenges, we will keep fighting for awareness. Parents need to recognize that, although Wyatt has a rare disease and looks different, he is also a 2-year-old boy who likes to cruise around on his balance bike, loves to cheer on his big brother at baseball games, likes to swing at the playground, and even likes to swim without a swim shirt that makes him itchy because of his disease.”
Catalano hopes that her post raises awareness and eliminates fear. “We want people to recognize everyone has differences, and some are more outwardly apparent than others,” she says. “People fear what they don’t know, and if we can help one more person understand his disease and become aware of it, we are grateful. Spreading awareness starts by sharing the truth.”
On the positive side, Catalano says that the general manager of Gilroy Gardens reached out to her to talk about what happened and learn from the situation. “The Gilroy Gardens GM and I are meeting this Friday,” Catalano says, “and are both looking forward to the positivity that will come out of this negative situation.”
In a statement given to Yahoo Beauty, Gilroy Gardens responds: “Gilroy Gardens is pleased that Wyatt’s mom and our general manager will be meeting to discuss turning this situation into something positive. They will be discussing how to work with one another to heighten awareness of mastocytosis and make Gilroy Gardens an even better environment for Wyatt and all children to grow and play together.”
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style:
- Mom Shocked to Find Son’s Class Picture Digitally Altered by Photo Company
- This Weird Pimple-Popping Tool Is Blowing Up Online
- Jewish Nurse Steps In to Breastfeed Palestinian Baby After His Parents Are in a Car Accident