20-Year-Old Woman Died Never Having Aged

Brooke Greenberg was 20 years old when she died. She was one of about a dozen people in the world who have what’s called “Syndrome X” — a kind of “Benjamin Button” disorder that prevents them from aging. In her first 6 years, Brooke went through a series of medical emergencies from which she recovered, often without explanation. She survived surgery for 7 perforated stomach ulcers and she had a brain seizure followed by a stroke, neither of which left her with any permanent damage. When she was 4, she fell into a sleep that lasted for 14 days, at which time doctors diagnosed her as having a brain tumor. Just days later, she woke up and was fine. It turned out that there was no tumor. She continued to overcome every obstacle thrown her way. At age 16, Brooke still had baby teeth, and her bone age was estimated to be more like that of a 10-year-old. Not only do people with Syndrome X have a growth rate of one-fifth the speed of others, but they live with a variety of other medical problems, including deafness, the inability to walk, eat, or even speak. As for Brooke, she never grew up. She never developed beyond the physical size of an infant, nor did her mental capacity ever move beyond that of a 2-year-old. She weighed just 16 pounds and was 30 inches tall. She didn’t speak, but laughed when she was happy and clearly recognized her sisters, aged 17, 23 and 26. Brooke Greenberg died on October 24, 2013, at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai Medical Center in Baltimore, the same hospital where she was born. The cause of her death was bronchomalacia, a medical condition usually occurring in children, which results in difficulty breathing due to weak cartilage in the walls of the bronchial tubes.