HE SKATEBOARDS, swims, rides his bike and climbs trees like any other lively 11-year-old.
But Harry Crowther’s body is ageing five times faster than his friends’ – and he is the only person in the world with this condition.
The Mirfield schoolboy has already been diagnosed with arthritis and takes painkillers four times a day to relieve him from the aches and pains a pensioner may suffer.
His skin has also started to thin as the ageing process takes hold and the bones in his fingers and collar bone have begun to erode.
But because he is the only person in the world to suffer from this rare form of Atypical Progeria Syndrome, medics cannot predict how Harry’s illness will develop.
His parents, Sharron and John Crowther, know their son’s life will be cut short by the condition.
So they make the most of every day with their brave and cheerful son.
Mum Sharron, deputy manager at Wellhouse pre-school in Mirfield, said: “It’s just a sit and wait game. Because the change in Harry’s gene is unique, they cannot say what’s going to happen.
“We have had our tears and the ‘why us’ moments like every family would have.
“But we have to remember he is walking, talking and is in mainstream school.
“It is just that his body is a bit different.
“There is always someone who is worse off than you.”
Harry – who lives with his mum and IT director dad John, 41, sister Emma, 16 and 14-year-old brother Jack – was born at Dewsbury District Hospital without any complications.
Medics first thought he had a cleft palate, but tests revealed his mouth was normal.
Yet by the time he was one, Harry had developed large brown freckles under his armpits and the skin across his abdomen became tighter.
As he started school, the youngster’s face began to alter and he was eventually referred to a geneticist at Leeds General Infirmary.
For years, Harry’s symptoms baffled medics until his parents saw a programme about a girl with Hutchinson Guilford Progeris Syndrome – the nearest illness to Harry’s condition – and the penny dropped.
Harry was diagnosed at the specialised UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, USA, when he was aged seven after undergoing further tests.
The oldest sufferer of a similar condition survived to the age of 26.
Sharron said: “I was relieved we knew what it was and that it wasn’t Hutchinson Guilford which is more severe and has a lifespan of just 13.
“It is a bit frustrating because there isn’t anyone we can talk to who has the condition.
“People stare and even go back and get their friends to stare. It really upsets him and I just think why?”
Harry takes pain relief four times a day and does daily exercises to help loosen his stiff and aching joints.
He also has hydrotherapy once a week.
He tires more quickly than other children and often has to take short rests at Crossley Fields Junior and Infant School where he attends.
Sharron, 40, added: “The school and his classmates have been brilliant. He is just Harry to them.
“If we go out he gets tired and goes on his dad’s shoulders and he can’t do activities like football because he has no body fat.
“But we don’t wrap him up in cotton wool.”
Harry, who is due to start Castle Hall School in September, said: “I can do a lot of things other children can do, but sometimes it stops me doing what I like doing because I ache.
“It feels weird and hurts most when I’m in bed.
“I get upset when people who don’t know me stare and it’s annoying going to hospitals.”
Harry – a member of the 8th Mirfield Cub group – will meet his hero TV celebrity and Chief Scout Bear Grylls in London on Sunday.
The Cub has been invited to attend the St George’s Day parade at Windsor Castle after being presented with the Chief Scout’s Award for his bravery.
Harry and his mum will be among five families from Great Ormond Street Hospital being flown to Majorca for a one-week stay to see the opening of the Pirates Ultimate Adventure, courtesy of First Choice.
Progeria comes from Greek, meaning prematurely old.
It is characterised by an appearance of accelerated ageing in children.
There are there are different forms of Progeria, the classic type being Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.
Progeria is caused by a mutation in the gene called LMNA.
The LMNA gene produces the Lamin A protein, which is the structural scaffolding that holds the nucleus of a cell together. It is thought the condition makes the nucleus of the gene unstable leading to premature ageing.
Symptoms usually begin to show in babies aged 18 to 24 months.