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Woman, Believe to be World’s Oldest Progeriac, Dead At Age 29

May 27, 1985 GMT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Margaret Casey, a 29-year-old progeria victim believed to be the oldest survivor of the premature aging disease, died Sunday.

Miss Casey, a free-lance artist, was admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital Saturday night with respiratory problems, which apparently caused her death, said Tom Urtz, a hospital spokesman.

Miss Casey, who was 31/2 feet tall, appeared frail, and her facial features - those of a young woman - were distorted by premature aging.

She drew attention through television appearances and interviews with national publications in which she promoted the rights of the disabled and handicapped.

Miss Casey became involved with Mickey Hayes, a progeria victim from Hallsville, Texas, who was 8 years old when he gained national attention in 1981.

She accompanied Mickey and another young progeria victim on a highly publicized trip to Disneyland sponsored by the Sunshine Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to people suffering from terminal illnesses.

″The children who have had it have gone from embarrassment to stardom, and that’s great,″ Miss Casey said. ″I’ve always been someone who people stopped and looked at, but now people are looking at these children like something special instead of something odd.″

Miss Casey first showed signs of the disease when she was 3, and like most progeria victims, was not expected to live past her teens. It is believed one progeria sufferer lived to the age of 27 in the late 1800s.

In a recent interview with The New Haven Register, Miss Casey said she felt an obligation to speak out for younger progeria victims.

″I’m the only one who can speak about it. All the rest are children,″ she said.

″I’ve got to be places and do things, and it doesn’t give me any time to think of what I want to be when I grow up,″ Miss Casey said in the interview. ″It’s getting a little hairy. I think I have to channel the notoriety onto the cause, and off of myself.″

Miss Casey was executive director of the Milford Independent Disabled Persons - a volunteer position - and worked in recent years for the rights of disabled people and for research and aid for progeria victims.

As she approached 30, Miss Casey told the Register, ″I’m starting to feel like it’s time to do things for myself, to figure out what I want to do with my life.

″It sort of jumps up on you. No one ever imagines they’re going to be that old.″