WOODBURY, TENNESSEE — A young mother in the U.S. state of Tennessee used a cell phone to shoot video of her first-born son at home and then posted it on the Internet. Since then, the video has gone viral and caused quite a stir in the disabilities community.
It has also led to some remarkable opportunities for the family to deliver a message of love and acceptance.
Christian Buchanan, 3,* has severe facial birth defects from a rare condition that afflicts only a few dozen other children in the world. He has a cleft lip and palate... and no eyes.
When his parents first took him out in public, people stared, whispered behind their backs, and sometimes asked mean-spirited questions. One person even suggested they should have had an abortion.
His mother says she tried a variety of responses, even being rude.
“And I kind of figured out that rudeness was never the way to go," Lacey Buchanan said. "It didn’t win anybody over."
Instead, when Christian was about a year old, she propped her cell phone up on her kitchen table and sat down in front of the camera to make a YouTube video.
In the video, Lacey uses handwritten notes to tell Christian's story and as she does, different emotions chase across her face - love, grief, joy and even anger.
The video has been viewed more than 11 million times.
That has given Lacey and her husband Chris a global platform to advocate for children with disabilities and against abortion.
They've appeared on local and national television and before huge crowds about their choice to keep their child after learning he would have disabilities.
“Every single tear that we’ve shed has been worth it, and every single difficulty that we’ve had has been so worth it," Lacey said. "So that’s what I would tell somebody who’s facing that decision. Don’t let that disability even be a factor.”
At home in Woodbury, Tennessee, life goes on for the Buchanans. Chris works for an insurance company. Lacey is a homemaker studying to be an attorney.
Christian has a new baby brother, and a series of surgeries is slowly transforming his face.
“He doesn’t act like he’s disabled whatsoever," said his father, Chris Buchanan. "He doesn’t let his vision take away from his life. He loves music. He loves the piano. He plays the piano daily. So, I don’t think he’s ever going to let his disability tell him he can’t do anything.”
Lacey expects Christian to live a full and rich life.
“He’s blind. He’s not, you know, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to move and unable to think and unable to do anything for himself," she said. "He just has to do things a little bit differently.”
The Buchanans say attitudes toward individuals with disabilities are changing worldwide, and they believe Christian - and their efforts to tell his story - helped with that transformation.
“It’s just been very cool, and I just love how everybody has reacted to our story,” Chris said.
It's the story, they say, of a miracle.
*An earlier version of this article erroneuosly gave Christian's age as 4. VOA regrets the error.