Teenager has the body of a 100-year-old
Reaching her 14th birthday is special for any child, but it was even more so for Hayley Okenes: It meant that she defied her own death sentence.
Hayley suffers from a rare genetic condition called progeria, which makes her body age eight times faster than the average person.
It means that this wide-eyed teenager has the body of a 100-year-old, making her vulnerable to age-related diseases like arthritis, and heart problems. The rare disease affects 1 in 8 million children.
Doctors put her life expectancy are mere 13 years, a mark she passed on December. People with progeria typically live until their mid teens or early twenties.
In an interview with the BBC, Hayley and her mother revealed how they managed to cope with the disease.
Mrs. Okenes said she and her husband first found out about the progeria just before Hayley's second birthday.
They have been trying to raise Hayley as normally as possible by sending her to regular schools. But she had to be pulled out of her school last year because her hips were permanently dislocated.
She has been going through painful medical treatments in Boston for four years.
However, Hayley manages to maintain a positive attitude.
"It's hard going through treatments and being ill, but sometimes it's fun going to places and meeting people," Hayley said.
Prince Charles of Britain, singer Justin Bieber, and record producer Simon Cowell are some of the celebrities who met Hayley and were touched by her immense courage.
On her homepage, she wrote she would "rather have progeria than not have it."
"My life with progeria is full of happiness and good memories. If I didn't have progeria I would not have done most of the cool things I have done or met most of the cool people I have met," she wrote.
"Deep inside, I am no different from anyone. We are all human"