Rare Disease Doesn't Keep Boy From Baseball Field

PHOTO: At 7 years old, Josiah Viera is just 27 inches tall and weighs 15.5 pounds; however, his size doesnt limit his love for his favorite sport.
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At 7 years old, Josiah Viera is just 27 inches tall and weighs 15.5 pounds; however, his size doesn't limit his love for his favorite sport.

"Baseball makes me happy," he said. "I like real baseball because I like to run the bases."

Josiah suffers from progeria, a genetic disease that causes accelerated aging in children. Its name, of Greek origin, means "prematurely old." Incurable, progeria is among the rarest diseases on Earth and affects roughly one in 4 million.

Dr. Colleen Walsh, who treats Josiah, said it was hard to tell how old his body is.

"About one year was equal to about 10 years," Walsh said. "Josiah's looking at being between an average 60- to 70-year-old."

Doctors told Josiah's mother that his life expectancy was between eight and 13 years.

'You're Going to Outlive Your Child'

"It's hard to explain," said Josiah's mother, Jennifer Viera. "Being a mom or a parent and knowing that potentially you're going to outlive your child."

In the spring of 2010, Josiah told the Little League team in his hometown of Hegins, Pa., that it was his dream to play baseball.

"He came over, looked straight at me," said Sam Bordner, Josiah's T-ball head coach. "Now what are you going to say to a little kid like that? So I just looked at him and I told him: 'Look, you know we're gonna let you play.'"

Josiah played one game of baseball that May. He cried when the game ended.

"Josiah took his hat and pulled it down over his face," Bordner said in a home video. "All I seen was two tears running down both sides of his nose. ... He said, 'I don't want it to be over.'"

Even though his doctors and family were unsure whether his body could make it through that one ballgame, Josiah went on to play in four. By then news of him playing had spread, so when the final game of the season arrived nearly 1,000 spectators turned out to watch.

"He loves the game for the game," said Josiah's grandfather Dave Bohner. "Not win or lose -- it's just love. It's just to swing the bat, hit the ball and run the base."

This season, Josiah returned to play on the Little League field in Hegins.

"I've had lots of people come to me since then -- adults, little kids, teenagers who play softball and baseball -- and say that he's their hero," Jennifer Viera said, "because he didn't let his condition stop him. He was placed here to touch people's lives."

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