Ontlametse Phalatse recently celebrated her 18th birthday in style in the company of South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa.
Well, millions of other people probably celebrated their 18th birthday on the same day as well, but Ontlametse is no ordinary person—she was the first black child in the world to be diagnosed with progeria, a rare genetic condition that causes one's body to age rapidly.
Her 18th birthday is even more remarkable because doctors predicted she would not live beyond the age of 13. However, driven by her bubbly and bright personality, she defied all expectations.
Here she is at her 18th birthday party:
Her birthday party was a fun affair:
Ontlametse pictured here in the company of friends and family:
Ontlametse's journey is remarkable. Her mother, Bellon Phalatse, says she was normal when she was born but started having skin rashes after a few months. Before her first birthday, her nails, hair and skin were already falling off due to the condition.
To make matters worse, Ontlametse's father abandoned her and her family when she was three years old. She enrolled at school at the age of six but her schoolmates taunted her for her diminutive stature and aging skin, saying she had AIDS.
Speaking of the experience, Ontlametse's mother says: "It was horrible, I don't know how to explain' what we went through." However, Ontlametse soldiered on and her spirit was undiminished spirit propelled her through her challenges.
Her bright spirit can be seen shining through in this photo with President Zuma:
Ontlametse even takes to modeling dresses sometimes:
She is seen here in February wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day:
Through all her difficulties, Ontlametse was bright and worked hard at school and recently completed her high school education. She says her hope is to become a psychologist, life coach and motivational speaker.
Ontlametse has embraced her condition and does not let negativity deter her. During her meeting with President Zuma recently, she said: “I call myself a first lady because I’m the first black child with this disease. Which other black child do you know with this disease?”
She and her family established the Ontlametse Trust to sensitize the public about her condition as well as coordinate efforts and funding towards her medical needs.
Ontlametse pictured here with a fellow progeria patient:
Ontlametse with her mother:
Here is a video of Ontlametse marking her 18th birthday with President Zuma.