Florida students step up for girl with skin condition, fight back against bullying

(Courtesy: Rebecca Morrissey)
(Courtesy: Rebecca Morrissey)

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — The mean things that kids say to one another can leave scars for the rest of their lives. But for one child, kind words are leaving more of an impression.

It’s hard to look different in elementary school. Hailey Morrissey was in first grade when severe plaque psoriasis spread over her entire body, and bullying came on quickly, too.

“I just, didn’t feel pretty,” says Hailey.

But then medication for her soul arrived – kind letters from the oldest kids in school – 5th graders. They sent friendship bracelets, and would walk Hailey to class. It was an effort initiated by the students, says their teacher.

“They can make a difference – even to one little girl, who is having trouble, because she’s not pretty,” says Sara Martin.

And slowly, other students in Hailey’s class began to accept the little girl.

For the next two years, Hailey’s dermatologist kept searching for what would heal her outside. None of the treatments approved for children worked. Hailey’s parents struggled with using medications approved only for adults.

“We’re teetering with how she looks and her self-esteem and her health. What do we choose?” asks Rebecca Morrissey. “Both of them are lifelong problems, and it’s very difficult to choose.”

Her family chose the adult medication, used under strict oversight by her doctor.

Hailey is now in the third grade and currently has shots every couple of months to control her plaque psoriasis. More important to her than having clear skin, is having a life free from bullying.

“I have lots of friends now, and I feel great,” she says with a giggle.

Hailey will be the youth ambassador at the National Psoriasis Foundation Walk at Tampa’s Al Lopez Park on October 29th. Her family hopes to bring together more families whose children are dealing with advanced skin conditions, both for support but also to send a message that there needs to be more options for children with severe psoriasis and other skin conditions.

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