Wanted: one light blue sippy cup.
Marc Carter, 42, of Devon, England, has sparked a global search for a light blue Tommee Tippee cup for his 13-year-old son, Ben, who has autism and refuses to drink out of anything else.
Ben’s existing cup is close to falling apart, and the company no longer makes the cup in the same style that he prefers. So unless Carter can round up a replacement for his son, who is also non-verbal, he may stop drinking entirely.
“He would rather die,” Carter tells PEOPLE. “They put him on a drip in the hospital, but when he woke up he would just rip it out of his arm. I’ve seen him do it before. He just won’t do it because he doesn’t care enough. It is a bodily function to Ben — it is not a pleasure. It is purely a function.”
Ben – who turns 14 on Saturday – has already been hospitalized twice with severe dehydration after refusing to drink for five days straight. And as he gets older, the light blue cups are only going to increase in rarity.
Carter took to Twitter on Monday to try and find a replacement cup for Ben and has since seen his messages retweeted 20,000 times. This has prompted people from all over the world to scour their cupboards for an exact replica.
“It’s mad. I’ve never done anything like it before and just thought I’d try,” adds Carter, whose stepson Sammi, 24 and daughter Ayesha, 11, also have autism.
“I’ve been looking for a couple of years,” he says. “I watch eBay most days and check Amazon a couple of times a week and never find any and I just thought, ‘I’ll give it a whirl, you never know.’
“One guy is sending it from Australia. He’s a doctor in Australia and I said ‘You can’t do that, it’s mad.’ He just said, ‘I can if I want to. I’ve got one here and it’s never been used and I want to send it.’ ‘”
Carter is now expecting 10 of the light blue sippy cups to be delivered to his home in Great Torrington, north Devon. Yet the truth is that he needs as many as he can possibly get his hands on.
“The chances of Ben ever using a normal cup are minimal. Maybe he never will,” says Carter. “So if, in 10 years time, we didn’t have any, it would be even harder to find some than it is today.”
“Genuinely, this little blue cup controls our life,” he adds. “We are terrified of taking it out of the house in case we lose it. It was lost at Ben’s school for 24 hours once and we didn’t sleep because Ben didn’t drink and we were terrified — genuinely terrified.”
To make matters even more complicated, Ben is so particular about his blue sippy cup that he could even refuse to drink from a replica if it doesn’t exactly match the smell, looks and taste of his current cup. So Carter and his wife Mandy, 49, have to get creative.
“Somebody found one in the back of a cupboard about three years ago,” Carter says. “We brought it home and tried to give it at him and he threw it at me. When we looked at it the handles had been wrapped and the color was slightly different.
“He had picked away at the handles of his cup. So I sat there with a nail file for three nights trying to file away a bit of the handle to rough it up a bit. Then I thought, ‘Ah, I’ll put the new lid on his old cup body!’ So he picked it up, kind of looked at it a bit funny but when he tasted it, it tasted exactly like his. So it was okay. Then we left it a week and swapped the lid. Because it felt the same he picked it up.”
Thanks to the stunning reply to his tweets, however, this may soon become a regular event in the Carter household – although it’s a problem the full-time caretaker is more than happy to have.
“It’s amazing that so many people have replied — really sweet,” says Carter. “Everyone has been a bit down recently because of what’s going on in the world, so it’s just nice to know there so many kind people out there.
“I’d like to have enough cups to last me a lifetime.”
If you think you have a replica of the same light blue Tommee Tippee sippy cup, contact Marc Carter via Twitter at @PMPProject.