Caroline McGehee cyberbullied over neuromuscular condition
POTOMAC FALLS, Va. (WJLA) - A local teenager is fighting a disease that hit her quickly and has left her in a wheelchair. Now on top of her medical battles, she’s also battling bullies trying to crush her spirit.
Caroline McGehee, 13, talks openly about her struggle with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, a neuromuscular disease, on social media, giving her a supportive community of thousands. But it's also made her a target of cyberbullying.
Caroline has no shortage of friends; some she met when she played lacrosse and then there are thousands she’s met online.
“One girl was going to end her life and she read my story and said I’m not going to give up. That shocked me. I'm like 'I just saved a life,'" she says.
Caroline’s life changed forever last year when the CIDP, which rapidly erodes her nerves, put her in the hospital for 72 days.
Nothing is secret with Caroline; every setback and silly moment is documented. But making her struggle public has also made her vulnerable.
"But then there are some people, the haters, I guess, just can say some ridiculous things... they just don't understand where she's coming from or what she's been through," says her mother, Anne.
Caroline’s friends can only guess why strangers want to steal her joy.
“I think they’re jealous how strong she is... she's the strongest person I know," says one friend.
“Do they think I love having this disease? Because I really don’t. I’d rather have a normal life walking and stuff,” Caroline says.
The McGehees know about hurt; three weeks after Caroline was born, her father died of an undiagnosed heart condition.
“She’s full of her father, which I just love,” her mom says. “You've got to play the hand you're dealt and it can be pretty tough, but you've got to keep going. Then she gets sick on top of it all, so it's been a little tough."
As much as Caroline's mother wants to protect her daughter from the toughness of the world, the world is also her lifeline.
“It helps me become stronger because then these people look up to me,” Caroline says. "I have to be strong for them so they don’t give up.”
Caroline will soon be back at Johns Hopkins for round five as doctors try out yet another treatment for her CIDP.