18 -year- old South Africa’s media personality and motivational speaker Ontlametse Phalatse has passed away.
The teenager who is the first black child with the progeria disease, a rare genetic disorder causing premature aging, died on Tuesday night at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa, outside Pretoria.
Her family released a statement on her Facebook page, saying she passed away in the above named hospital on Tuesday after experiencing breathing problems.
Ontlametse Phalatse who is one out of the 80 children in the world diagnosed with the health condition accelerating the aging process of the body, is also one of two South African girls living with the rare genetic disorder and was told she would only live until her fourteenth birthday.
Luckily enough she survived another four years as she celebrated her 18th birthday last month before her tragic departure.
“It is with great sadness [that we] inform you of the passing of our first lady, Ontlametse Ntlami Phalatse. She experienced breathing difficulties yesterday and was rushed to Hebron Clinic, then was referred to Dr George Mkhari,” a statement on Phalatse’s Facebook page read.
“The doctors did everything possible to save her, but unfortunately she passed on. She was surrounded by her mother, brother, family members and friends. The Phalatse family and Ontlametse Phalatse Trust would like to thank the nurses at Hebron Clinic and the staff at Dr George Mkhari for their compassion and their effort in trying to save her.
“Our hearts are filled with pain and sadness, but Ontlametse, as we know her, would want us to carry on with her courageous spirit. We will miss you sorely, Tsontso, our first lady. May you find eternal peace among the angels. Rest in Peace Ntlami.” the family wrote
Prior to her death, Ontlametse Phalatse calls herself ‘the first lady’ and dreams of a bright future as a psychologist.
‘I call myself a first lady because I’m the first black child with this disease … Which other black child do you know with this disease?’ she usually say.
To fulfill part of her bucket wishes, Phalatse had last month, visited President Jacob Zuma as she marked her 18th birthday. The two met at Mahlamba Ndlopfu Presidential House in the Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria where she dinned with and had her birthday cake cut.
The president noted at that time said he has taken a few steps in helping Phalatse and her family manage her condition. “They don’t have a house. The foundation, working with the trust, will certainly ensure that that’s a priority and we’ve been doing so for a number of people.” he said.
Receiving the news of her death, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson Bongani Ngqulnga says the president is heartbroken.
“The president was most touched by meeting Ontlametse last month. He considered her to be very special. He was impressed by her sharp intellect, warm personality, brilliant ideas and her determination to use her condition to motivate others so that they can achieve their goals, regardless of any challenges” he said.