The parents of a five-year-old girl with a rare skin condition have told how they've experienced cruel jibes from strangers about their daughter's disorder.
Annabelle Whitehouse from Sutton Coldfield has Ichthyosis, a condition where the skin sheds 14 times a day, leaving her body sore, red and flaky.
Sonia and Paul told the Daily Mail they have regularly been subjected to thoughtless comments about Annabelle's skin.
Stay-at-home mum Sonia, 45, said: 'Once when we were on holiday, a taxi driver asked if we had put Annabelle in the microwave. Others have even accused us of allowing her to get badly sunburned.
'We spend so much time each day caring for Annabelle that we find it incomprehensible people would accuse us of deliberately allowing her to come to harm.'
Annabelle's care routine involves creaming and bandaging her body four times a day.
The youngsters has had the condition since birth, and was born in a thick armoured skin casing, called a collodian membrane. The coating squashed her ears, nose, hands and feet, and her parents did not see her face until specialist treatment eventually shed the membrane.
Sonia says: 'When Annabelle was born we knew straight away that something was wrong. The room fell silent and I thought she was dead at one point.
'She was quickly diagnosed with Ichthyosis by a doctor at the hospital who had worked in Africa and who had seen the condition over there.
'It turned out that both Paul and I were carriers of the gene that causes the condition but it was a three in one million chance that any of our children would get the illness.
'We were worried sick because we didn't know what would happen. I wondered if Annabelle would ever go to school, find a boyfriend, have friends or live a normal life.'
For the first nine months of her life, Annabelle was creamed every hour, but once her skin began to improve, her regime was cut down to four times a day, with the exception of exposed areas, like her hands and face, which are treated every half an hour.
Despite her delicate skin, Annabelle leads an active life, enjoying ballet and horse-riding, and playing with her eight-year-old sister Lydia, who does not have the condition.
Her parents are keen for her to lead as normal a life as possible, and say that Annabelle copes well:
'At around the age of four she started asking questions,' Sonia said.
'She would say "mummy I want skin like yours" and once she was found hiding in her nursery trying to take off her bandages.
'She said "I want to be like everyone else". '
'But a child psychologist really did help her, and we tell her she's beautiful.'
Annabelle and her family are helping to raise awareness of children's genetic disorders with the UK children's charity Jeans for Genes. Now in its 15th year, Jeans for Genes Day is on Friday 1st October and invites everyone to wear their jeans to work or school in return for a donation www.jeansforgenesday.com
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