Meet the woman with a rare condition that ages her seven
times faster than normal.
Claudia Amaral from Viseu in Portugal was just four months
old when she started showing symptoms like hair loss, wrinkles and pigmentation
of the skin.
In 2000, as a one-year-old, she was diagnosed with progeria
– a genetic childhood condition characterised by premature ageing.
Doctors told her family that Claudia (now 20) may die soon
but that the average age for girls with the condition was 13 or 14 years.
Ever since she was diagnosed Claudia has defied the odds,
growing up with a supportive family and friends who’ve treated her as an equal.
Her progeria age is 140 years and she’s had several hip
replacements due to bone wear.
But Claudia hasn’t allowed her health problems to stop her
from going out with her friends and wants to prove that the condition doesn’t
limit her in any way.
“At four months I began to have hair loss, skin
pigmentation, wrinkled skin and weight loss,” Claudia says.
“At the time doctors told my parents that I could die that
day still or the next day.
“Progeria is a disease that ages you seven times faster
than normal. All the problems of an elderly person come up – bone problems,
heart problems, and so on.
“I never felt different from my friends or people around
me. I was always treated the same, also at school.
“Even today people do react to me. For example on the
street, often people stop and watch, others comment. Many approach me and ask
what my disease is called, and ask me how old I am.
“It's like everything, people have good reactions as well
as bad reactions.”
There are only 350 to 400 children living with progeria
Claudia has made it her mission to show the condition won’t
hold her back.
“Progeria hasn’t prevented me from doing anything. I live
my life as if progeria doesn’t live inside me,” she said.
“I’ve never really
had any tough times with progeria. Even when my hip goes out of place because
of bone wear, I don't feel pain.
“My recovery has
always been good. Doctors have told me to rest after my hip replacements, but I
just forget about the rest and I go out with my friends, dancing and all sorts
“The times that were
supposed to be difficult, or seen as great battles, are overtaken by great
success. I feel very good, nothing has knocked me to the bottom as it was
“I try to fully
embrace my condition when I go to events for children with the same disease or
to routine hospital appointments.
“I have a perfect
family and a large group of super friends who are always there to support me.
My friends say I’m a great warrior in a battle that could have been impossible
“Of course I’ve already won because I exceeded the progeria
average age. So I think I’ve won the game and will continue to win, I hope.
“The disease doesn’t prevent us from doing anything, we
have to stop it from winning. If we depend on a disease, we’ll never overcome
all the obstacles that progeria presents to us.
“We have to think positive and live as if we’re killing
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