South African teenager Ontlametse Phalatse is the first black child with the progeria disease, a rare genetic disorder which causes premature aging thus, accelerating the aging process of the body.
Ontlametse Phalatse who is one out of the only 80 children in the world diagnosed with the condition calls herself ‘the first lady’ and dreams of the future (wants to be a psychologist) because she is the first black child to be diagnosed with the Progeria disease.
‘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 challenged.
Being a brave kid, Phalatse ignored her disease and enrolled in school at the age of six and proved a bright pupil. As expected, she was often scorned by classmates, teachers and others who thought she was small and skinny because she had AIDS.
‘It was horrible, I don’t know how to explain what we went through’, Phalatse said.
When she was younger, the doctors said she has a few years to live and never expected her to live past the age of the age of 13. But she trumped all that and turned 17 this month against doctor’s prescription.
Now 17, Phalatse attended her school matric few days ago all geared up in her stunning gown and long hair and shared lovely photos of herself on Instagram.
“Thanks to everyone who made this day a success. I look awesome” she wrote.
Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, commonly known as progeria disease, is an extremely rare genetic condition which causes a child to age eight times faster than normal thereby leading to a shorter life span than their age mates. Major causes of death for Progeria sufferers include heart attack, high blood pressure, strokes, angina, enlarged heart and other diseases associated with old age.
The actual number of those with the disorder in the world is not known.
However, after a two-year campaign to identify them, the Progeria Research Foundation says the number of children diagnosed around the world has increased from 48 to 80 within five continents.
The foundation’s executive director, Audrey Gordon, says only two Africans have been diagnosed and both live in South Africa – Ontlametse and a 5-year-old white girl.