All parents know that going to a Royal Show with children can be a stressful experience, but Adelaide parents Sarah and Peter Scott were determined to do it.
They knew that it wouldn’t be easy for their daughter, Hannah, who is 10; but they didn’t want her – or Cooper, 12, and Abby, 17 – to miss out.
It was a great day, until a stranger decided to yell at Hannah, who happened to be sitting in her special needs stroller at the time.
Speaking to Mamamia, Sarah explains what happened.
“We were deep in one of the pavilions, and a woman pushed past us. She turned around, and looked directly at Hannah and screamed, ‘A fucking ten-year-old in a pram!’
I called out to her as she kept moving forward, but it was too crowded for me to go after her.”
Sarah says that she realises that many people don’t recognise Hannah’s stroller as one purpose-built for older children like her youngest daughter. That’s why she posted about the incident on her business Facebook page on Monday night.
“This is a special needs stroller,” Sarah said in the post.
“They are designed to help kids who are older than standard strollers cater for. We have one of these instead of a wheelchair for Hannah because we haven’t made the switch yet, it’s not needed more than a handful of times a year and only if we will be out in crowds for longer periods of time.”
Even though she owes no explanation, Sarah added:
“When you look at Hannah you can’t see her illnesses clearly. You can’t see the heart condition, the autoimmune illness, the full on medication, the horrendous muscle spasms that can bring her to her knees, the exhaustion of carrying all this in such a little body especially after a school day.”
She also called for awareness, and respect.
"You can see this stroller. Learn what it looks like and respect it like you SHOULD a wheelchair. They may be harder sometimes to move around in a tight space. Know using it isn’t always a choice."
The result of the stranger screaming her abuse directly at Hannah is that she was very upset, and the family left The Show earlier than planned.
"I feel guilty about that, because I encouraged Hannah to use it for support, so she didn't have to miss out on the day," Sarah says.
"She shouldn't have to miss out. She deserves to be there, like everyone else."
But the stranger's words crushed Hannah.
As Sarah explained in the post:
"You made the greatest impression on her, in her words “you were the first person to ever be mean to me for being a heart kid”."
It was a shocking experience for the family, but Sarah says that the "overwhelming response" to her post has been comforting.
"Hannah was born with a heart condition called tetralogy of fallot," Sarah explains.
"It's not uncommon, but it means there are four problems with the heart. Hannah had her first open-heart surgery at 15 weeks, and has had two major surgeries since."
Explaining that Hannah's condition is considered a palliative - because it can never be fixed completely - Sarah says that it means Hannah is constantly tired, and suffering from muscle pain.
"Her heart doesn't pump around her body properly. She also has an auto-immune condition, for which she takes chemotherapy medication, which makes her feel unwell all the time."
Sarah says that at age 10, Hannah knows she's 'different'.
"She doesn't want to be. She plays soccer, because she wants to be just like her friends. But afterwards, she's in a lot of pain."
Sarah explains that last weekend, she knew the only way Hannah could attend The Show was with the support of her special needs stroller. And despite the nasty incident, the family still enjoyed most of the day.
"And yes we spoilt her sick," Sarah said in her post.
"A new onesie, squishies, show bag and an amazing henna [tattoo]."
And of course, the family has now raised some much-needed awareness about kindness and respect for other people.