Brooke Greenberg Dies: 20-Year-Old in Toddler's Body Had Rare Condition

Image: Brooke Greenberg Dies: 20-Year-Old in Toddler's Body Had Rare Condition Brooke Greenberg, left, at age 16 with her younger sister Carly, 13.

Wednesday, 30 Oct 2013 02:57 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Brooke Greenberg, the 20-year-old Maryland girl with a rare genetic disorder that prevented her from growing out of her toddler body, died last week, the family announced.

Greenberg's condition was dubbed as "Syndrome X" by doctors. She was born prematurely but lived to age 20, and her body never matured beyond her toddler stage, according to the Daily News.

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She died on Oct. 24, after spending most of her life under constant care of doctors for her orthopedic problems, stomach ulcers, respiratory distress, and other ailments.

"While the outside world may have noticed Brooke’s physical stature and been puzzled by her unique development state, she brought joy and love to her family," Rabi Andrew Busch, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral, told the New York Daily News on Monday. "Her parents, three sisters and extended family showered her with love and respected her dignity throughout her entire life."

In an NBC "Dateline" story from 2005, Greenberg's parents said doctors first mentioned the possibility of their daughter having "Syndrome X" after many specialists could not figure out the cause of her condition.

"We started hearing the word maybe she has 'Syndrome X' which is an unknown syndrome," Melanie Greenberg said. "That was the first time after the growth hormone didn’t work that the doctor brought that up into our minds and it seemed like the thing to label Brooke — unknown 'Syndrome X.'"

Greenberg's parents took the girl to John Hopkins Children’s Center and New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, numerous times to meet with researchers and specialists.

"Even the geneticists were perplexed," Dr. Lawrence Pakula, Greenberg's pediatrician, said. "They could not find any abnormalities in her chromosomes."

The Greenberg’s pediatrician consulted with specialists, looked for references in medical literature, but came up with nothing. No one had ever seen anyone quite like Brooke.

WBAL-TV reported that scientists were studying Greenberg's DNA to examine aging and longevity. While Greenberg never grew past the toddler stage, she had a strong self-awareness and sibling rivalry.  

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Related stories:

George H.W. Bush Shaves Head in Support of Boy with Leukemia

Toddler Gets Windpipe Made From Her Stem Cells

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