Online commenters were horrified by the ‘wild’ song which played after Sarah Mendenhall, a high school student with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), was announced prom queen.
The moment was captured and shared on TikTok by Mendenhall’s friend Celeste Orozco, who wrote, “A prom queen coronation moment to remember.” The post amassed nearly 18 million views and thousands of comments from stunned viewers, many of whom expressed embarrassment for the DJ.
In the clip, Mendenhall, who is in a wheelchair, meets her king on the dance floor after being crowned. Students cheer as the royals greet each other, but the mood of the room changes dramatically when the couple’s first dance song, by Ed Sheeran Thinking out loud– start playing.
“When your legs don’t work like they used to,” says the first line of the song. Upon hearing the lyrics, the crowd collectively gasped and “booed” the DJ.
“It would haunt me the rest of my life if I was a DJ,” the video’s narrator said.
Many viewers believe the song was chosen weeks before the prom. Still, they were horrified by the moment.
“I would run to a new state and change my identity,” wsp wrote.
“I would quit right now man,” admitted Manavog.
“Wrong, so wrong,” Zyan Jones commented.
“Bruh even if it was a school pre-made playlist, I still would have skipped that song because I know the fucking lyrics to that song,” said the_drama_queen_sarah.
Luke Powell simply called the moment “wild.”
Thatb0ybubu added, “It’s so disrespectful.”
While the crowd and many Orozco viewers thought the moment was shocking to say the least, Mendenhall thought it was funny.
“I found it really funny and ironic. I didn’t know what was happening until long after because I was trying to dance,” Mendenhall commented.
Orozco replied, “We had a great prom night and had a good laugh about it the next day.”
About Acute Flaccid Myelitis
In a video posted to her account on Tuesday, Mendenhall explained that she suffered from an autoimmune disease commonly known as AFM.
“[At] 17, I caught a cold [but] I didn’t realize I had an autoimmune disease called AFM,” Mendenhall began.
“Basically this cold caused my immune system to attack my whole nervous system. I had two lesions in my gray matter on my spine… two lesions on the spine, one on top [and] the bottom one leaves you quadriplegic, me,” she continued.
She went on to explain that it’s possible for the nerves to mend if they aren’t “permanently damaged,” which thankfully hers weren’t.
“So I can walk [but] I am not able to run or walk long distances,” she said. “My wheelchair is called Bethany and she is a great friend.”
According to the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association (SRNA), AFM is a “rare” autoimmune disease, meaning fewer than 200,000 people in the United States are affected by it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 682 cases of the disease since 2014; however, this number “may be an underestimate as not all cases are reported,” SRNA explained.
Unfortunately, the CDC said there is no “specific treatment” for AFM, but clinicians “may recommend different interventions for each patient.” The SRNA also claimed that “rapid and accurate diagnosis” can lead to “rapid acute treatment”.
Newsweek contacted Orozco and Mendenhall for comment.