A man has dubbed himself an ‘armless freak’ as he was born with missing limbs. As he makes fun of his own appearance, he has now become a TikTok sensation and has attracted thousands of followers.
Colby Van Voorhis, from Syracuse, New York, was born with a rare genetic condition which meant that several of his bones had not developed properly, or at all, during pregnancy. The defect resulted in Colby being born without no arm bones and his hands directly connected to his torso, close to the shoulder blades. This defect affects fewer than one in 100,000 births.
As Colby was also born without knee joints, he decided the best way to set himself apart and make others feel comfortable around him was to be able to laugh at himself and be able to crack a joke or two.
The college student told the Metro: “I make jokes about myself and I gave myself the armless freak name in middle school. I know I am a bit freaky looking and the videos are my way of making people feel comfortable being around me.
“I accept myself for who I am and I want to encourage people to look past what they see. I learned I have got to live my life how I want to and not live it how other people think you should.
“I like making people laugh, it keeps my mood up and it makes other people feel good too. When you’re someone like me you’ve got to learn to laugh at yourself because people will say dumb things regardless, and life is too short to be sad about what other people think.
“People can’t offend me because I know how I look and I’m happy with it. I hate it when people say they feel sorry for me. Why should I feel sorry for myself? There are people who have to deal with a lot worse than me.”
As a baby, Colby was adopted by Patricia and Gary Van Voorhis and he is one of eight children. He learnt that his biological parents decided to put him up for adoption so that he could be raised in a family that was “better equipped” to manage his complex medical needs.
Colby was born with a condition called thrombocytopenia-absent radius syndrome (TAR) and it is characterised by the absence of bones in a baby’s arms, as well as missing knee joints. This meant that until he was six-years-old, Colby couldn’t walk.
During his school years, he counted himself as “lucky” as he was never bullied from looking different to everyone else. He said it’s mainly whilst out and about in public that he faces the stares and/or pointing.
Although his defect can obviously cause some physical disadvantages, Colby is able to feed, dress and bathe himself and says he can live an independent and happy life. To move around the house and climb the stairs, he has mastered his own unique way and said he’s grateful for what he has been able to do.
Colby explained: “I face everyday challenges but I have learned to adapt and at the end of the day, this is all I’ve ever know.
“Ever since day one, I have worked at making life as easy as I can for myself and a lot of people are surprised by what I can do. There’s no reason for people to have pity for me because I am able to do a lot and am very happy.
“I have never felt embarrassed to go out and I don’t mind when little kids point and stare, it’s just because they are curious and I like to answer questions. I have had the odd person point and laugh but I don’t let that stuff bother me.”
At the beginning of this year, Colby decided to sign up to the social media platform TikTok. It allows users to create short videos in which they can set the music and also attach on-screen graphics to create a narrative.
Colby’s profile has now amassed 84,000 followers and when all combined, his clips have totalled to two million likes.
In general, Colby’s clips revolve around mocking himself or enlightening people as to how he goes about day to day life.
Being only 4ft 1in tall, he added: “Anyone can make a difference to the world, however small. People tell me I am an inspiration but I am just living my life.
“I have never moped around or felt sad about how I look because my condition has made me who I am. I have fun with my videos and it’s a good way for me to be an advocate for other people like me who might not be as confident.
“The videos have been very well received as a whole on TikTok, you always get the odd wise guy who says something, but I just give them some back!
“I know that I am popular on there because I am different. My videos aren’t the best on TikTok, but I stand out and people are interested in how I look.
“Everyone has insecurities but you can’t let them stop you from living your life.”