The girl, who has a rare disease that makes her look 7 times older than her real age.
Claudia Amaral’s skin started wrinkling when she was just four months old. And by her first birthday, the Portuguese woman was diagnosed with a rare condition. Doctors told Claudia’s family that her life expectancy would be up to 13 or 14 years old, but she has exceeded expectations.
The 20-year-old woman is living life to the full and refuses to let her medical issues hold her back. Claudia was diagnosed with progeria – which is also known as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome – when she was a baby. The condition sparks profound growth delays and premature ageing.
Claudia explained: "Progeria is a disease that ages seven times faster than normal, for example I am twenty years old, but in progeria years I'm like one hundred and forty years old.
"All the problems of an elderly will appear, bone problems, heart problems, and so on.
"Usually the mortality rate in a child with progeria is up to fourteen or fifteen years, and by this time I have already exceeded the average.”
Claudia’s condition affects her appearance, which can make her stand out in public. But even though strangers can be curious about her progeria, her friends and family are very supportive.
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The patient said: "I never felt different from my friends or the people around me, I was always treated the same, including at school."Even today, I walk on the street and often people stop and watch, others comment, many of the others approach me and ask what my disease is called, and ask me how old I am.
"It's like everything, they have good reactions, as well as bad reactions."
Claudia refuses to let the condition hold her back. She remarked: "Progeria has not prevented me from doing anything; I live my life as if progeria does not live inside me.
"I've never really had any tough times when having progeria; even when I move my hip, because of bone wear, when my hip goes out of place, I don't feel pain.
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"My recovery has always been good, doctors have told me to have a rest after having my hip replacement, but I just forget about the rest, and I go out with my group of friends, dancing and all sorts.
"The times that were supposed to be difficult are seen as great battles overtaken with great success.
“I feel very good, nothing has knocked me to the bottom, as it was supposed to.”
Claudia also spends her time visiting other people with progeria, which is currently impacting 350 to 400 patients worldwide. She explained: ”I try to fully embrace my condition when I go to events with children with the same pathology as me and when I go for routine hospital appointments. I have a perfect family and a large group of super dear friends who are always there to support me.”
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She hopes sharing her story will help others to be more positive about their diagnoses.
She added: “My friends say I am a great warrior in a battle that could have been impossible to win.
"Of course, I've already won at this point, because I have exceeded the progeria average age, so I think I won the game, and I will continue to win, I hope.
"The disease does not prevent us from anything, we have to prevent it from winning.
" If we depend on a disease, we will never be able to overcome all the obstacles that progeria puts in front of us.
"We have to think positive and live as if we were killing progeria."
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