Book Review: Old Before My Time
In many ways, Hayley Okines is a normal teenage girl, with a crush on Justin Bieber and the usual complaints about school! But Hayley was born with a rare genetic condition called progeria, which means that she ages eight times faster than normal.
When her parents first received her prognosis, they were told that her life expectancy was 13 years of age. This December, Hayley will turn 14.
Old Before My Time: Hayley Okines’ Life with Progeria tells Hayley’s story from two perspectives – her mother, Kerry Okines, and her own. Chapter by chapter, Hayley and her mother recount the main events in her life, each talking about their own memories and feelings about the things that have happened.
In many ways, Hayley has lived an extraordinary life, meeting stars like Kylie Minogue, and traveling to places like Disneyland. But she has also had to deal with things that no child should face – constant medical examinations, a daily routine that includes taking numerous pills of the kind normally associated with old-age ailments, and worst of all, suffering the loss of young friends of hers, fellow progeria sufferers.
Hayley’s story is a fascinating one. Several aspects of her mother’s story resonated with me. The first was when she recounted the first few signs that something was amiss. Kerry was breastfeeding Hayley, and although she seemed to be feeding well, she was failing to thrive. Rather than seeking a reason for this failure to thrive, the medical advice was to switch to formula because her breastmilk might not be rich enough. It took months and months more before doctors started to take Kerry’s concerns seriously.
The other aspect of the story that stuck with me was Kerry’s difficulties getting information on progeria once they received their diagnosis. These days we take access to information for granted – but at the time when Hayley’s family received her prognosis, the internet of today was still years in the future. At the time, very little information about the disorder was available online. These days, most people have heard of progeria – whether it’s through storylines on ER or Gray’s Anatomy, or Hayley’s own documentaries, which have been broadcast around the world.
Throughout the book, Hayley’s positive attitude and optimism is quite clear. Kerry still struggles and admits herself she has good days and bad days thinking about what might happen. But it’s clear that they have learned to live each day as it comes, and that they are still living in hope of a successful outcome from one of the drug trials that Hayley is partaking in.
All in all, Old Before My Time is a fascinating read about the life of an extraordinary little girl.
I received a free ebook of Old Before My Time to complete this review. However, I did not receive any other payment or compensation for completing this review. My opinions are entirely my own, and I always try my best to give an honest and unbiased report.