Hayley Okines passed away last week. She was 17 years old. When you hear the phrase “wise beyond her years” you usually think of someone much older, not a teenager. But Hayley had progeria, a disease that ages the body about eight times faster than normal. When she died she had the body of someone who was older than 100.
Progeria is caused by a gene mutation. Something goes horribly wrong with the coding that is needed for normal growth and the children who have the defective gene become old far too early. When they are only four years old, their little bodies have aged to resemble eighty years. They remain trapped in a rapidly aging body with the minds and intelligence of healthy children.
In the short time allotted to Hayley she made a difference. Her upbeat attitude has served as an example to others with the rare genetic disease. She has helped write two books, one of which is titled Old Before My time.
She participated in experimental drug trials to try to treat the condition. Currently there is no effective treatment and no cure. She and her supportive family also allowed documentary makers into their lives to record the day to day events of her short life. She leaves behind a loving family to mourn her.
Following is a quote of this brave young woman.
“My life with progeria is full of happiness and good memories. Deep inside I am no different from anyone. We are all human."