Harley Jo Skorpenske came out of her local CVS one day, only to find a hateful note on her car. It wasn’t the first time it happened. But this time it called out her parents.
“You should be ashamed! When you take a handicap spot an actual disabled person suffers. You were not raised as you should have been.”
Suffering from the autoimmune disease lupus, Harley Jo periodically has her joints swell up painfully, and at some points she is even bedridden. She was diagnosed when she was 16—her hair fell out, she became hard of hearing, and her lungs collapsed three times in college.
Despite that, she’s been determined to live a full and normal life. She dreams of becoming a doctor.
To an outside observer, Harley Jo doesn’t look sick. But there are times where she has to walk through the pain so she can continue going to school, running errands, volunteering for community service, and so on.
So when Harley Jo parks in a handicapped spot, not everyone understands her full story, and she has more than once been left a mean note.
This prompted her mother, Corinna Skorpenske, to post a message on social media to explain the truth.
“To The Person Who left This on My Daughters Car.”
Corinna wrote that she wished they spoke to the amazing person they were calling out before they thought to leave this note.
“If you had, you would have known that my daughter has a disease,” Corinna shared on Facebook, in a post that then got shared over 200,000 times.
Lupus, as she explained, means her immune system is attacking her body inside out.
Since she was 16 years old, she has been suffering from LUPUS. Basically, her immune system thinks her body inside and out is something bad and attacks it.
It started with her joints swelling and the pain being so bad she could hardly walk. But she continued going to school and keeping up with her community service.
Her Junior year in high school, her illness decided it would [make a] joint attack, and add hair loss and a huge facial rash. But she continued going to school and went to prom wearing a wig.
Her Senior year, she suffered debilitating muscle pain, which made it difficult to get out of bed. But she continued studying, got some scholarships for college, dressed in her cheerleader uniform (which she could no longer do) to cheer on her classmates.
In her freshman year in college (at OSU), she started with a chemo like drug, on top of other meds, that constantly made her sick to her stomach, weak and lost lots of weight. She carried on volunteering at a disabilities camp for children with her same illness.
Sophomore year at OSU, we thought she was in remission. But it was not to be; she developed hearing loss because her immune system thought that too was bad. So she started taking Sign Language classes because she knew how it felt to not hear a conversation and did not want to leave anyone out.
Junior year at OSU was really bad. Her lung collapsed three times. She lived in the hospital for a month, having numerous chest tubes put in and taken out. She had to drop the semester of studies. But she said ” I will be back” and she did come back but not at 100%.
She struggles every day with permanent damage she has had to one side of her body and with hearing loss, but baby she keeps going!
I may not be a perfect parent, but I know I did good with her!
Diseases like lupus are like “ghost” diseases, Corinna explained, but “Please don’t judge a book by its cover!”
“It is my wish to find you.”
Happy holidays from Schrute farms #theoffice #xmas #happyholidays #wematch
In writing the Facebook post, Corinna hoped it would find its way back to the person who left a message—not to shame them, but to help spread awareness.
“Not to tell you how wrong you were in leaving that note and how you might have turned my daughter’s day bad. But to give you the opportunity to meet My Girl,” she wrote. “I think you would love her.”
Shout to Senator Duckworth's office for accepting 1300+ petitions in favor of protecting the CFPB. Your constituents…
The viral post was picked up by many news media, and it definitely contributed to raising awareness of invisible diseases—reminding many to think and be compassionate before they judge.
“Turning something negative into a positive learning moment for people reading your post is powerful … you’re such an elegant lady,” one commenter wrote.
“God bless Harley! You raised her right and what an inspiration she is to all of us,” wrote another.