Mother Knows Best
Being a parent comes with a special sense of knowing when something is wrong with your child. And for Deirdre Fell-O’Brien, she knew something was immediately off with her son when he experienced a complete shift in behavior in 2017. Wanting to get to the bottom of things, she urged him to share with her his troubles and when he did, his response broke her heart.
Deirdre and her husband Keith lived in Garden City, New York and were parents to five children: Darby, Liam, Jacinta, Muireann, and Jonjo. It would be 2016 when Liam would begin seventh grade at Garden City Middle School and began to show a real love for sports.
Young and Active
Liam loved soccer and excelled in the sport, much to his mother’s encouragement. He earned a spot on the school team and things were looking promising as he started the seventh grade. Liam loved being active, enjoyed riding his bike with friends and according to Deirdre, had a very healthy appetite. What young boy doesn’t?
Changes in Behavior
Despite a promising start to the school year, as winter approached and the fall semester came to an end, Deirdre noticed some slight changes in her son. “One chilly winter afternoon, Liam handed me his cell phone and told me he didn’t want it anymore. I asked why, but he brushed off my inquiry with a shrug and slunk back to his room, closing the door behind him.”
At first, Deirdre didn’t think much of it and put the phone away, but she soon began to notice other changes in Liam. He stopped hanging out with friends, no longer rode his bike and seemed to be distancing himself from the family. However, the biggest warning sign was yet to come…
According to Deirdre, as the school year came to a close, Liam’s interest in soccer ceased to exist. “Liam didn’t pick up his soccer ball for the rest of the summer,” Deirdre wrote on Facebook. “I was so confused.”
Later that summer, Liam went with his dad to Saratoga, New York. There, he began to notice some worrying signs with his son. It seemed Liam was no longer eating like he used to and had according to Deirdre, he was losing weight quite quickly. “He started to eat just one meal a day.”
The Weight Continues to Drop
Worried for her son, she continued to press him for information. She revealed that he insisted everything was fine, but after he had lost ten pounds in one month, she took him to the doctor. Something was definitely wrong.
Hospitalized for Tests
The doctor recommended that Liam should be admitted to the Cohen’s Children’s Hospital where he spent a week. With the school year getting ready to start, and Liam showing no signs of improvement, Deirdre reached out to the school guidance department for help.
Liam’s parents begged the school to please keep a look out for their son and that he was having some troubles. The school assured his parents he would be fine. Unfortunately, things were about to get worse. “He started school on Tuesday, and his birthday was that Friday, September, 8. And that day, he came home, and he had a big bruise on his face.”
When confronted about the bruise, Liam told his mother he had fallen down the stairs.
Over the course of a week, Liam lost another five pounds and finally, Deirdre confronted Liam in the kitchen and pleaded with him to tell her the truth. However, nothing could have prepared her for his response…
Bullied for Being Different
According to Liam, he admitted to being bullied throughout his entire seventh-grade year. He revealed it began when he joined the soccer team and only got worse. “There were unnecessary pushes and kicks. He was told he was weird, he was fat, his freckles were weird, his eyebrows were weird,” Deirdre told ABC News.
Deidre revealed that Liam had been completely devastated by the bullying. The students tormented him on a daily basis, which was why he quit soccer. He couldn’t handle the abuse any longer.
Truth Behind the Bruise
Liam also revealed to his mother what really caused his bruise. “He was putting his lock on his gym locker, and a boy came and pushed his face against the locker,” Deirdre revealed in an emotional interview. Since there were no monitors in the gym locker room, there had been no one to witness the abuse.
Re-Admitted to the Hospital
After his confession, Liam was admitted back into the hospital where he was diagnosed with an eating disorder and depression caused by bullying. Due to the severity of the situation, the school finally decided to launch an investigation.
An Unfortunate Outcome
Sadly, the school determined that Liam’s claims were unfounded. Deirdre was furious. How could the school betray her son like that? Taking matters into her own hands, she decided to post on Facebook about the entire ordeal. And what happens next was absolutely shocking to Deirdre.
The Post Goes Viral
After sharing her son’s story, Deirdre’s post was shared over 2,500 times. Thousands of social media users flocked to the post, commenting and showing signs of support for Liam and his family. However, there was more to come.
Standing With Liam
With the Facebook post making the rounds on social media, the hashtag #WeStandWithLiam began to trend. Shirts, signs and even bumper stickers began to be displayed with the slogan. Even the Nasdaq featured it in Times Square!
A New Confidence
Liam spent two months in the hospital before finally regaining his strength and returning home. He insisted on returning back to his school, despite their lack of support. “When I dropped him off that first day, my jittery nerves turned to overwhelming pride as I watched my son confidently walk right through the front doors,” Deirdre revealed. “He even finished out the soccer season.”
Better Every Day
According to Deirdre, Liam was now taking medication for his depression and was slowly beginning to regain weight. Even better, he was able to connect with his friends and was growing in confidence each day.
We admire Liam’s courage and his ability to face adversity with love and not hate. It’s time for bullying to come to an end.