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18-year-old dies due to rare disease that left her with the body of 144-year-old

West Sussex: An adolescent with ‘Benjamin Button’ illness, which left her with the physique of a 144-year-old, died weeks after turning 18.

Ashanti Smith, of West Sussex, died on July 17 after suffering from the extremely uncommon Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, which caused her to age eight years for every year of her life.

Phoebe Louise Smith, the teen’s mother, praised her ‘intelligent and strong-willed’ daughter for refusing to let the disease dim her ‘loud and beautiful’ personality.

Despite having the body of a 144-year-old when she died, Ashanti was able to celebrate her 18th birthday in May with a night out sipping her favourite cocktail.

The youngster died with mother, father Shaine Wickens and a family friend, Kayleigh Cartwright at her side, saying to her mother, ‘You’ve got to let me go.’

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Phoebe said: ‘Ashanti’s life was a joy. Even though progeria affected her mobility, it didn’t affect anything else. She was a typical, stroppy 18-year-old and I loved everything about her. She was brilliant, she was gobby. She spoke her mind and everyone knew it.’

Mother added: ‘It didn’t affect her heart, her willpower or the way she felt about herself – she felt beautiful every day. I made sure of it every day. Everyone loved and adored that little girl. She touched their hearts so much with her willpower.’


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