Ontlametse Phalatse, a South African teenage girl who suffered from a rare genetic condition and inspired many with her positive approach to life, has died.
Phalatse had the rare condition known as progeria, a genetic disorder that causes premature aging in victims and shortens their life expectancy.
Aged 18, Phalatse died on Tuesday night at Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa, outside Pretoria, reports News24. During her life she was believed to be one of only two South African girls living with the condition.
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Phalatse became a shining example of positive living in the face of difficulties as she battled with the disease: Doctors initially predicted that she would barely live to the age of 14, but being the “fighter” that she was, she outlived their grim predictions by another four years.
During her birthday in March, Phalatse, who liked to refer to herself as “the first lady,” met with South Africa President Jacob Zuma at his official residence. The meeting came at Phalatse’s request and Zuma presented her with a cake and a bouquet of flowers:
Reacting to her death Wednesday, President Zuma issued the following statement:
A brave young fighter has fallen. May her spirit inspire all others living with disabilities or facing any difficulty to soldier on as she did and live life to the fullest.
We are really proud of her. We wish to convey our utmost condolences to her mother‚ her whole family, and the Ontlametse Phalatse Trust for this sad loss.
May her soul rest in eternal peace.
A statement on Phalatse’s Facebook page revealed she had been rushed to the ER on Tuesday, after experiencing breathing difficulties:
The doctors did everything possible to save her but unfortunately she passed on. She was surrounded by her mother, brother, family members and friends.
The Phalatse family and Ontlametse Phalatse Trust would like to thank the nurses at Hebron Clinic and the Staff at Dr George Mukhari [Hospital] for their compassion and their effort in trying to save her.
Our hearts are filled with pain and sadness but Ontlametse as we know her would want us to carry on with her courageous spirit. We will miss you sorely, Tsontso, our first lady. May you find eternal peace among the angels.