A boy whose severe skin condition left him in so much pain that his mum feared he was giving up on life feels “a lot better” after being sent thousands of birthday cards from well-wishers.
Rhys Williams, 13, lives in constant pain as he battles a rare life-limiting and agonising skin condition, known as epidermolysis bullosa.
The condition which he’s suffered from since birth results in painful skin blisters, sores and has even caused his fingers to fuse together.
His mum, Tanya Williams, 36, was desperate to show Rhys he has something to fight for after he heartbreakingly told her he wishes "a butterfly would come and take him away".
Ahead of his 14th birthday on September 21, devastated Tanya put out an appeal asking for cards to be sent Rhys.
And after hearing his touching story, thousands of people responded to her plea, flooding the youngster with more than 18,000 cards and gifts, as well as thousands of online messages.
“He’s had hundreds upon hundreds of presents. Just a card would have made his day, you know,” she told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “But the people who sent presents have just made his day even more.”
Since Tanya first made her appeal, Rhys's story has gone global - with some of the cards arriving from the other side of the world.
She has also been contacted by a number of organisations who want to do something nice for Rhys, including Bolton Wanderers FC, who have asked him to act as a mascot.
Tanya added: "It's gone worldwide. He's been on the telly in Chile. He got a card from Qatar today and loads from America.
"I just want to say thank you. That's all I can really say at the moment, I'm so overwhelmed by it all."
When he was born, Rhys’ parents had no idea whether he would ever reach his teenage years.
The condition causes Rhys' skin and internal tissue to blister at the slightest knock or rub, leaving him with painful open wounds.
He is now reliant on a wheelchair as he is unable to straighten his legs due to the fusing of the skin at the back of his knees.
His body is covered in bandages, which have to be changed three times a day to prevent him from developing any deadly infections.
The pain is so severe that he even had to take morphine to try and control it while his family are unable to hug him.
And though there’s nothing he’d love more Rhys is unable to play outside with friends, go on holidays, or attend birthday parties.
Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB) is a rare inherited skin disorder.
The skin of those who have DEB is more fragile than normal. Minor injury causes blisters which often leave scars when they heal.
There is currently no cure and treatment focuses on tackling the symptoms, providing pain relief, and preventing infection.
It is caused by faulty genes which produce collagen, a strong protein in the fibres that hold the skin together.
Commenting about the gestures of support he’s received Rhys said: “Now that I know that people actually do care about my condition and that, it’s made me feel a lot better than what I was.”