Hayley Okines, the English teen who inspired many by bravely living her life to the fullest, despite sufferering from a disease that left her with the body of a 104-year-old woman, died last night at age 17 at her home in East Sussex.
Okines lost her battle with progeria, an incurable premature ageing disease, but lived four years longer than doctors had predicted, reports the Mirror. In her short, but productive life, she was the subject of a documentary series called "Old Before My Time," which is also the title of her autobiography.
The teen's mother, Kerry, announced her daughter's death on Facebook: "My baby girl has gone somewhere better. She took her last breath in my arms at 9.39pm x."
In 2013, Kerry opened up toThe Sunday People about how proud she and her husband were when they gave birth to Hayley in 1997 and witnessed her reach milestones, like walking, at an early age. But she also said they noticed she was very small in size and didn't appear to be growing. They took her to be examined at 13 months and, after six months of testing, discovered she had an abnormally low amount of elasticity in her skin. In 1999, Hayley was diagnosed with progeria and her parents were told she would not live past age 13.
The Progeria Research Foundation, which has supported the family, wrote a touching tribute to the young girl on its Facebook page:
The entire Progeria family mourns together with many as we say goodbye to Hayley Okines, our smart, beautiful and spirited English Rose, who passed away today at age 17.
"Gone from our sight, but never our memories, gone from our touch but never our hearts..." We will miss you.
We share one of our favorite photos of Hayley and her mum, Kerry. Thank you all for your kind thoughts.
Photo Credit: Facebook, Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror