A 20-year-old man with a rare ageing disease has defied slim odds to survive into adulthood.
Harry Crowther has atypical progeria syndrome, and is thought to be the only male in the world with this form of the condition.
The genetic disorder causes Mr Crowther, of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, to age around five times faster than normal.
As a result, he says he suffers from ailments ‘somebody’s granddad would have’, such as arthritis.
His mother Sharron previously described her son’s health as a ‘sit and wait game’.
Nine years on, Mr Crowther refuses to let his condition hold him back and is determined to have ‘as much fun as possible’.
Speaking of his condition, Mr Crowther said: ‘Progeria affects my health in several ways. I get a lot of issues which older people tend to have.
‘I have arthritic pain, I have a deterioration of the bones in my fingertips in my hands. I get tired easily. I am small for my height. Basically, everything somebody’s granddad or grandmother will have.’
Sharron first realised something was wrong when her son was still a baby.
‘When Harry was about one-year-old we noticed some freckling underneath his armpits, some pigmentation,’ she said.
‘We took him to the doctors, they just said it was a birthmark, but I wasn’t happy with that.
‘I sought another opinion and we went to see various experts throughout his young life.
‘It wasn’t until the age of seven when somebody thought it might be progeria.
‘We were sent to America, where we got the diagnosis that it was atypical progeria syndrome.’
Once diagnosed aged seven, Mr Crowther quickly accepted his disorder.
‘I didn’t necessarily feel different,’ he said.
‘I didn’t feel like an outcast I just knew I was different from everybody else.’
Hospitals visits then became part of the family’s regular routine. ‘We’re just so used to them, it just slots into life’, Sharron said.
Although she takes her son’s condition in her stride, Sharron worries about his future.
‘My biggest concern is losing him,’ she said. ‘I just hope he stays well and he stays healthy like he is now.’
Sharron, who is also mother to Emma and Jack, added: ‘I worry about all my children’s future.
‘But I especially worry about Harry’s because we don’t know how long we’ve got him.’
Atypical progeria syndrome differs from the more common Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, which accelerates ageing by eight times.
The disorder has left Mr Crowther with an abnormally short stature and virtually no body fat.
However, unlike with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, he has not lost his hair and has a longer life expectancy.
‘Within the Hutchinson-Gilford, they release the toxin Progeria, which makes them age faster, whereas in my genetic defect for some reason it doesn’t release the genetic Progeria’, Mr Crowther said.
‘[That] is very confusing for a lot of people because I’m getting the symptoms of ageing faster but I’m technically not genetics wise’.
Due to the differences between the disorders, Mr Crowther would not benefit from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria treatments.
‘I have to get separate treatment, which hasn’t even been discovered yet,’ he said.
Despite all he has endured, Mr Crowther works hard to live a ‘normal’ life. He loves socialising, playing computer games and travelling.
‘I recently went to Japan with my brother Jack,’ he said. ‘I also have an upcoming trip to Finland.
‘Travelling can be pretty difficult sometimes even though I love it so much. There are obviously some obstacles when it comes towards travelling.
‘But I try like not let it get me down. I try to keep going and just have as much fun as possible.’
Mr Crowther, who takes statins and aspirin every day to thin his blood, always tries to see the positive side of his situation.
‘I don’t really think about it, I don’t try to bring any attention towards it in my daily life, I usually make fun of it, most of the time,’ he said.
‘I try to see the brighter side of things. If it’s not in my control, what can I do?’
Mr Crowther is speaking out to raise awareness of his condition. He recently launched a progeria Facebook page with his mother.