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When you think of someone suffering from dementia, what do you picture? Typically most people will think of an older person, a person in their seventies or later. But in very rare cases, it can affect people of other age groups.

Such is the case of Charlea Armstead, a 12-year old girl that is suffering from dementia.

How is this possible?

Both of Charlea’ parents were carriers of the Niemann-Pick gene mutation (NP-C). Neither of the parents were aware of this mutation until after Charlea was born. She developed jaundice two weeks after being born, but no one knew exactly what was wrong with her.

The gene mutation NP-C causes a protein deficiency. This results in a build-up of fatty acids in all of the body’s cells. This includes the major organs and the brain. The resulting symptoms include early-onset dementia. There is no cure for this mutation, and the treatments can only help a little.

You can read the whole article about Charlea and her family at the Telegraph. It’s a touching and very sad profile of Charlea, who has had to deal with health problems for her entire life. She has to carefully navigate walking around the living room, as her muscle tone, bone density and other health problems mean that she could lose balance and hurt herself.

One particularly devastating quote was from Charlea, where she frustratingly says “Why am I like this?”. Charlea, in another body, may have been a healthy, normal girl and led a full and productive life. But instead she has to live in a body that gives her constant pain and holds her back. It’s amazing to think of the courage she needs to muster to continue on.

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