A 12 year old girl named Ontlametse Phalatse lives in Hebron, a small town just north of Johannesburg, South Africa. When she gets home from school, she does homework, watches tv, does her daily chores, and sometimes helps her mother cook. Ontlametse has bright plans for the future, to become a psychologist. This seemingly ordinary child is also known as the only living black person with the disease known as Progeria. This rare disease is a genetic condition that’s speeds up the aging process.
There were only two other black children that were diagnosed with the condition, but they died. Ontlametse and a white child are the only Africans diagnosed and they both live in South Africa. They may live there because South Africa has some of the best medical care on the continent. Most children with Progeria die between the ages of 8 and 21, usually suffering from heart failure, strokes, and high blood pressure. By the age of three months Ontlametse suffered constant rashes, and before she was one year old her hair was falling out.
Ontlametse At the age of six she was enrolled in school, where teachers and classmates scorned her because they thought she had AIDS. Ontlametse was not diagnosed until she was 10, when a doctor friend hinted on the condition to her mother. Even though she has this condition Ontlametse is a bright and strong little girl. She says “I don’t care what people say about me” referring to the mean classmates, but she says that she has two friends in her class.
At school Ontlametse is self conscious about her bald head and always wears a hat, that’s why one of the things on her wish list is a specially designed wig to wear when she’s not at home. Ontlametse calls herself the first lady because she is the only black child with this condition. Ontlametse says she wants to be a psychologist when she grows up so that she can help others accept themselves for the way that they are, just like she does. This dream of the future would require a miracle knowing that she may only have a couple more years to live.
Every school holiday, Ontlametse flies to the Progeria Research Foundation at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Here she participates in research were she has access to cutting edge drugs. I think that this article is really shocking, interesting and sad. This little girl is the only black person with Progeria on the whole planet. I have seen a show about this condition on tv, there was a three day convention that brought together all of the children with this condition.
It was really shocking to see these young children looking like old people and having all of the health related issues that old people have, they are so small and fragile. Even though Ontlametse has all these problems she still attends school, does chores, has dreams, and is so strong, which is very inspiring. She does not let this condition bring her down, she knows that it’s a part of her and she wants to be a model for others to accept themselves as they are. This article is also saddens me because in reality this little girl, so full of life and personality, may only have a few more years left to live.
Courtney from Study Moose
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