Friday, October 12, 2012

Forever Young? Not Quite.

What's wrong with this picture?
This is Brooke Greenberg. She's sixteen in this picture, nineteen now. She and her younger sister Carly live in Maryland with their parents, where Brooke enjoys watching TV and shopping.
Oh, and she's the one on the left. Carly's the thirteen year old holding her.
Confused? So is the medical world.
Her hair and fingernails grow like everyone else's, but she has the bone structure of a ten year old, baby teeth like a first grader, and her brain hasn't developed any more than the average baby. She didn't seem too different from the average baby at birth, aside from being born one month early by C-section. She was somewhat underweight, four pounds and one ounce, but I weighed less than that and I'm a normal teenager. Brooke had seven stomach ulcers, a seizure, and a stroke all before the age of four. When she had a brain tumor, her parents bought a casket. But Brooke survived.
Now she's 16 pounds and stands at 2' 6" (76.2 cm). She goes to a special needs school, pushing a miniature walker through the halls. Her mom takes her around the mall in a stroller. Other moms with their toddlers ask how old she is. How do you explain that to a casual stranger? Ms. Greenberg divides her age by twelve. The other mother's accept her age as nineteen months and go on with their lives.
Some scientists see Brooke as a fountain of youth and want to run tests. But really, would you want to be that young forever? I've heard too many parents lamenting about how their children have to grow up. Can't stay innocent and oblivious forever. And I've heard a lot of teenagers wish for the same thing. You never realize just how good your childhood is until you lose it.
But even though Brooke won't be going out to wild parties with stupid boys, even though she'll never have to stress her way through college and pay her own bills, she'll never be able to fully appreciate her youth either.
Maybe growing up isn't such a bad thing after all. 

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