|Man (20) with body of a 160-year-old|
|Wednesday, 25 April 2012 00:00|
Dean Andrews’ body has aged eight times faster than normal due to a rare condition called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria (a rare syndrome in children characterised by physical symptoms suggestive of premature old age). He is one of just four progeria sufferers in the UK and out of only 74 cases worldwide, Dean is thought to be the second oldest survivor. Now Dean has decided to tell the story of his life so far in the hope of providing inspiration to other sufferers.
He said: “I’ve never let my condition hold me back. I’ve always tried to do what everyone else does and even if I failed, at least I tried. My family have kept me going and I’ve got very supportive friends. I’m very lucky as they do everything they can to make me happy.”
Dean weighs just 41,58kg — but his small body holds a big personality. In his 20 years, Dean has learnt to drive, been engaged, got four tattoos and once even started a mechanics course at college. However, he was forced to quit when he was unable to get his tiny 1.21m frame over the cars’ bonnets.
Nevertheless, his achievements are astounding considering that when he was diagnosed with progeria at the age of seven, his mother Dawn Thomas (41) was told he would not live beyond his early teens.
Back then, the condition was so poorly documented that most doctors had never even heard of it.
Dawn said: “When Dean was about six months old I noticed he was a lot smaller than he should have been. He was still wearing clothes for a 0-3-month-old baby but the health visitors told me not to worry.
“They said he was just small and there was nothing wrong with him, but I carried on taking him to the doctor regularly because his appetite was small.”
In other ways Dean’s development was quite normal, but when he started walking at the age of 18 months, Dawn noticed that he would tire more easily than her other children
“I’m lucky to be so loved.”
Dawn said: “We would be walking along the street and he would complain that his legs were hurting. At first I just thought he was lazy, but then I noticed there were certain things he couldn’t do, like cross his legs during assembly at school.”
The mystery was eventually explained when a geneticist broke the news that he had progeria.
Dawn said: “The day before we were told, the doctor rang up and told us to come in and said that I should bring someone with me. I knew then that it was bad. I thought it might even be cancer because his hair used to fall out so easily.
“There was so little information available about progeria at that time that I basically had to teach myself everything. All we were told was that Dean was ageing eight times faster than normal and that he would probably not live past 13. I didn’t know how to break it to Dean at that time because he was so young. I just told him that he had a growth problem.
“It was really hard to take and I ended up on anti-depressants, but it was Dean himself who gave me hope, he never let anything get him down.”
Dawn lives in Birmingham with Dean, her husband Wayne (43) and children Sophie (15) and Lewis (12). She also has an older son Nathan (23), a warehouse assistant, and fosters her niece Annabel Timby (14).
She split with Dean’s father Mark Andrews, an airport baggage handler, in 1998 and met Wayne around the time of her son’s crushing diagnosis.
Now both Dawn and Wayne devote their lives to Dean’s full-time care at their council terrace home in Erdington. — Daily Mail.