Incredible Moment When Bullied 15-Year-Old With Rare Disorder Meets Girl Just Like Him
Few people make it through the fires of junior high without feeling as though they’re separated from others. The hammer and tongs of social pressure and puberty seem to mold most of us into idiosyncratic isolation.
Not many, though, can claim to know how it feels to be alone quite like 17-year-old Austin Niehus.
The Craig, Colorado, teenager told People in 2015 that “I was bullied so bad and made fun of a lot.”
Why did Austin face ridicule from his peers? Because he has a genetic disorder called Goldenhar syndrome.
Goldenhar is one of those truly rare afflictions that only impacts an unfortunate few, cropping up in roughly one out of every 3,000 to 5,000 births. Originally discovered in 1952, it’s also called oculo-auriculo-vertebral spectrum.
If you know a little Latin, that jumble of syllables will give some hint as to the problems the syndrome causes. It often leads to ear, spine, and eye deformities, as well as underdeveloped jawbones and cheekbones.
That means that, in addition to being very rare, individuals with Goldenhar syndrome often have a distinct “look” — a look that opens them up to ridicule. Fortunately, a group of strangers got together to show Austin he wasn’t alone.
Thanks to the efforts of television channel TLC in 2016, a very special someone showed up in the then-15-year-old boy’s driveway.
Austin and his family gathered to watch a black SUV pull up and a small form emerge from the large vehicle.
That form was a 12-year-old girl named Elena — a girl who also had Goldenhar syndrome. The connection between the two was instantaneous.
“She’s awesome,” Austin said. “She’s the type of person you can be really, really good friends with. Like, dang!”
Elena seemed to share his enthusiasm, saying, “Oh my gosh, he’s right there! I could actually touch him!”
Austin’s situation is touching not only because of its poignancy, but because it reminds us of a simple truth: No matter how alone we might feel, there’s always someone else out there in the world who understands exactly what we’re going through.
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