A BRAVE girl who lives trapped inside the body of a 100-year-old woman is lifting the lid on her amazing life which has seen her travel the world and rub shoulders with royalty and pop stars.
Hayley Okines is just 13 but because of a rare illness her body has aged at almost 10 times the usual rate, leaving the bright and loving teenager with the health of someone 87 years her senior.
Celebrated by pop princess Kylie Minogue as “extraordinary”, Hayley has had to battle the trials and tribulations which are part and parcel of life living with the rare genetic condition progeria.
Experts estimate she is just one of 45 sufferers worldwide, but despite the problems association with progeria, Hayley has become best known for the she way in which she faces her condition with immense courage and a refreshing lack of self-pity.
She lost her best friend to the disease aged just 11 and lives each day with the knowledge her life will be heartbreakingly shorter than anyone she knows.
For Hayley, known as the oldest teenager in the world, the chances are she will never experience the joys of growing up.
In fact, the average time someone with progeria lives is 13 years – a milestone young Hayley has reached in recent weeks.
However, Hayley is not giving up hope just yet. Together with her loving mum Kerry, she has written a book to add to the growing number of television appearances which continue to highlight the plight of progeria sufferers.
The five documentaries she has starred in have already been seen by an estimated 1.7 million people and she hopes the book will bring yet more attention to the diseases of which, until recently, little was known.
In Old Before My Time, Hayley describe the highs and lows of her life so far – a story which includes coming face to face with her pop idol Justin Bieber and charming a rare autograph from HRH Prince Charles.
Speaking to the Herald ahead of the launch, Hayley said, “My life is full of happiness and good memories as well as needles and treatments.
“My book is about all the happy times in my life and some sad ones too.
“The best thing about having progeria is that I get to go really cool places and meet cool people.”
Hayley is the first child in the UK to take part in pioneering drug trials in America and has been praised for not only giving hope to other families of progeria children but putting her body on the line to help research into the subject.
Scientists hope the results of her treatment could have far-reaching effects on the ageing process for not just progeria sufferers, but the wider population.
Hayley, who lives in nearby Bexhill, will officially launch her book at Waterstones here in Eastbourne next month.
She will be at the Terminus Road bookstore between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, November 26 to chat and sign copies of her book, which is priced £9.99.