A teen who was trapped in a body of a 144-year-old has passed away only weeks after celebrating her 18th birthday.
Ashanti Smith from West Sussex died after living with Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, also known as ‘Benjamin Button’ disease, which saw her age 8 years for every year of her life.
Her heartbroken mother, Phoebe Louise Smith, has paid tribute to her ‘brilliant and strong-willed’ daughter.
Even though Ashanti had an ultra-rare premature aging condition, she still managed to enjoy her 18th birthday drinking her favorite cocktail.
She passed away with her mother, father, Shaine Wickens, 33, and a family friend, Kayleigh Cartwright, 25, by her side.
Some of Ashanti’s final words to her mother were: “You’ve got to let me go.”
“Ashanti’s life was a joy. Even though progeria affected her mobility, it didn’t affect anything else,” Phoebe said.
“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.
“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,” Phoebe continued.
Ashanti enjoyed her first girls’ night out after she turned 18. Her mother insists that despite her condition, the teen was determined to be treated like any other teenager.
“She was louder – louder than me – and I’m a very loud person. There are photos of her first getting ID’d. We all took her out to the pubs, me and all the girls. We took her to three pubs three weeks ago,” Phoebe said.
“She got tipsy and she loved it. Her favourite drink was Sex on the Beach.
“Her condition affected her mobility to walk as far. She had a broken hip and it had to be set back in three times, then eventually it came out again and she just walked with a broken hip.
“That child, my little girl, wouldn’t get in a buggy. She’d either be carried or she’d walk. You’d ask if she wanted a drink, she’d say ‘I’ll get it – what are you treating me different for?’ She was very strong.
“It didn’t affect her will. Obviously it affected her mobility and she had heart disease.”
“She struggled but she said ‘Mum, I love you. You’ve got to let me go’,” Phoebe added.
The family set off 150 helium balloons for Ashanti and a display of fireworks.
“The condition gave her arthritis, and it gave her heart disease and heart failure. She passed away of heart failure and natural causes,” Phoebe said.
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