(INSIDE EDITION) Grayson Smith has been inspiring others with his sense of determination and ability to love from the moment he was born.
“He is absolutely just — there’s not even a word to describe him. He is just incredible,” the 3-year-old boy’s mother, Jenny Smith, told InsideEdition.com. “He is so funny. He is so smart. He has beaten every single odd that every doctor has ever told us.”
The Ranburne, Alabama, child was born with 22 different birth defects, diagnosed with an array of medical conditions that had never before existed in one person, his mom said.
Born with occipital encephalocele, craniosynostosis, micronathia, thumb hypoplasia, a cleft palate, hypospadias, congenital anomalies of the lower limbs, ASD of the heart, apnea and appearing unable to see or hear, his prognosis was not good.
“Every doctor told us that he would never survive past two weeks,” Smith said.
Now three and a half, Grayson is a happy, sarcastic, caring child who has so far undergone 24 head and brain surgeries, seen 19 shunts put in, is intellectually rating above his age level and is the strongest fighter his parents have ever seen.
“He is terminal, his conditions are terminal. Doctors tell us just take it day-by-day. And we really do just take it day-by-day and enjoy every moment,” Smith said.
In an effort to find support, Smith and her husband created a Facebook page to share their son’s story and connect with others going through similar journeys.
“We really didn’t know what to do,” Smith said of the decision to look to social media. “We had doctors telling us he wasn’t going to live … but it’s developed into more of a support page for other parents as well.”
The ‘Grayson’s Story’ Facebook page became a platform for Grayson and his family to make a difference.
“People, they’re inspired by him and he’s inspired by them. He’s built a lot of special relationships with a lot of special people,” Smith noted, saying her chatty little boy often connects with other children with special needs.
“He loves to be on the phone,” she said with a laugh.
With more than 16,000 followers, Grayson’s page has largely become a source of positivity, but a cruel corner of the internet nearly saw that come to an end.
“A follower of Grayson’s story messaged me... and said, ‘I’m so sorry, but I wanted you to know that I had come across this,” Smith said.
A photo of her little boy had been making its rounds online, turned into a hurtful meme that read: “That face you make when your parents are actually cousins.”
“I was devastated, but I thought ‘it’s just one picture; it’s just one thing.’ And then I googled it and it popped up everywhere,” Smith said. “The devastation and the hurt I felt … we initially were going to take the (Facebook) page down, but I’m proud of the child he is and I’m proud of the accomplishments he’s made. He is thriving and doing well beyond anybody’s expectations, which is why we are fighting back and speaking out —because he’s fighting back and speaking out.”
Smith and her family members began reaching out websites where the meme had popped up to ask them to remove the image. She’s had a mix of responses.
“A couple have said, ‘we will remove it immediately.’ Other websites say ‘we’re not removing it. It’s our First Amendment right and we’ll post what we want.’ We’ll keep going and circle back around to them,” Smith said.
She and her husband’s three other children — Grayon has a little brother who will be 1 year old this month, a 10-year-old brother and a 13-year-old sister — have also been hurt by the meme, but Smith has turned the experience into an opportunity to grow.
“Of course they want to defend their brother and they’re hurt by it, but they also pray for people like this, to forgive them,” Smith said. “We just kind of handle it as a whole and learn from it. Even though people can be hurtful, hateful and cruel, you always return that with love and respect, regardless. But you have to defend yourself and stand up for what you believe is right.”
Since word of the meme has spread, Smith said she and the family have received an outpouring of support. Many have flocked to the Facebook page to show their love for Grayson as well as taken to his YouCaring page, where those interested can donate to help fund his many surgeries.
“Grayson's story touched my heart — please know that there are more decent folks out here than trolls - it's just that the trolls are noisier!” one donor wrote.
“Grayson, you are truly a hero and a strong little boy. I know you will make it through in life because you have love all around you,” another person posted.
“It’s turning into such a positive experience,” Smith said. “I’m glad we did fight back; I’m glad that we are moving forward with saying, ‘this is not okay’ a lot of people get discouraged and they want to just give up —that’s what we were originally going to do — but you can’t do that. You can’t allow people to bully you like that. You have to overcome it and you have to keep going.”
To donate to aid in Grayson’s medical expenses, visit his YouCaring page by clicking here.