Rochelle Pondare just reached the age of adulthood, but she looks and feels as if she’s lived a long life already. The condition Rochelle suffers from is called progeria, which is a very rare disease that causes rapid premature aging. Only 100 children around the world have the condition and they usually don’t live past their early teens. Rochelle is doing very well considering.
Rochelle was diagnosed with progeria at the age of five. Since then, her body’s been deteriorating at an unbelievably fast pace. What bothered her very much was losing all her hair. Now, she wears bandannas and wigs while working on her family’s market stall in the Philippines.
Progeria is caused by a genetic mutation which causes the cells of a patient’s body to malfunction. This affects the tissues and organs, and causes children to age dramatically. Rochelle has the body of a 144 year old. She is one of the oldest progeria patients in the world.
Like all teenagers Rochelle loves music, fashion and hanging out with boys. She also loves going to school:
“I’m always with boys, I’m friendly with boys rather than girls. I like boys better because they protect me when we go out. The boy I love became my best friend in grade 6. I share my problems with him. He is my soulmate.”
Rochelle’s specialist Dr Imelda Cruz said: “Rochelle’s desire to live is very strong. She wants to celebrate her 18th birthday because that is a big deal in the Philippines.”
This special young woman is also one of the oldest children ever to be screened for the new drug, Lonafarnib, which reduces organ and vein damage as well as the aging effects of her disease. The medication and her strong will are what has kept her alive. About her condition, Rochelle says:
“I’m not growing. I feel like an old person, I’m short of breath. I have difficultly walking and feel tired. Sometimes my body aches. My family are the source of my strength and they are also the reason why I try to stand on my own. I do have dreams I want to reach, like to have my own house. I also want to have my business for my mom and dad so that they will no longer need to work and just stay at home. Thats the reason why I have a brave soul. It’s for them.