She is only 15 years old but her body has aged six times that amount. Magali González Sierra is a fragile, scrawny young girl so full of life – yet she looks like she’s 100 and her organs are similar to those of a 90 year old.
Magali has progeria, a disease that is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in reverse. Those with the illness don’t usually live beyond the age 13, and doctors say they are surprised she has lived this long. The illness, a genetic disorder, quickly accelerates the aging process though doctors are unclear why.
Over the weekend, Magali turned 15 and did not shy away from celebrating it the big way, they way girls in her native Colombia and throughout Latin America do – with a big quinceañera bash.
“I look beautiful,” she said, as her mother placed a wig full of long brown hair on her bald head ahead of the party. With the utmost delicacy, mother Nedy Sierra and other family members spent hours on Saturday afternoon prepping Magali for her big night.
“She has suffered a lot but she is brave,” her mother, who is 35, to El Tiempo newspaper.
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Sierra said the first signs of Magali’s condition started to show when she was 10 months old. Her skin hardened and became increasingly papery, and over time she started losing all of her hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows.
At 26 pounds and a little over 3 feet tall, she is extremely vulnerable and can barely speak after a tracheostomy last year greatly impaired her speech.
Still, the night of Jan. 16 was her night and she kept repeating how happy she felt to have her “Quinceanera” dream come true.
Progeria is a genetic disease that affects one in 8 million people.
On Saturday, dozens of neighbors and friends came out to the streets of Candelaria neighborhood, in the country’s capital of Bogota, to cheer Magali’s milestone-turned-feat as she paraded down the avenue on a bike-drawn carriage.
A loud applause then welcomed her to the local Sports Center where the party went on until 4 in the morning, according to published reports. At one point she was wheeled in to the center of the floor and a group of couples danced a waltz around her.
"People have been very supportive to us and our daughter, and we appreciate that," said Jose Eider Gonzalez.
At the party there was cake, soda and a special meal, El Tiempo reported. Her parents said they did not allow any alcohol "we were gathered that night only to fulfill the dream of my girl, she was the protagonist in her night, a princess," her mother said.
"She did not want to change her dress, she was very happy and she kept saying it every five minutes,” she said. “Everyone was very nice with her."