"Sometimes people ask me if I could have three wishes, would I wish I didn't have progeria? And I say no." So said UK teen Hayley Okines in her 2012 autobiography Old Before My Time, telling readers her life with the rare premature-aging disease was "full of happiness and good memories," per People. That joy-filled life has sadly come to an end, Okines' mom announced last night on Facebook. "My baby girl has gone somewhere better. She took her last breath in my arms at 9.39pm x," Kerry Okines wrote. Her post was joined by one from the Progeria Research Foundation, which said a few hours later, "The entire Progeria family mourns together with many as we say goodbye to Hayley Okines, our smart, beautiful, and spirited English Rose." Hayley, 17, had just come home from the hospital earlier yesterday after a bout with pneumonia, the BBC reports; her father says, "I think she wanted to come home to say goodbye."
The extremely uncommon genetic disorder, which affects only 125 children worldwide, caused Hayley to age eight times faster than normal, USA Today notes. Symptoms often include hair loss, inability to gain weight, and features that resemble those of an elderly person, including older-looking skin, per the NIH. Hayley, often referred to as the "100-year-old teen" in the UK press, surpassed doctors' expectations she wouldn't live past age 13, the BBC notes, and she became an active participant in raising awareness for the disease. She went through a groundbreaking drug trial in the US, wrote her memoir at age 14, and continued to make appearances to inspire others, the broadcaster adds. "Deep inside I am no different from anyone. We are all human," she wrote in her book, per People. (Read the story of Sam Berns, who also bravely fought the disease before he died last year.)