Durham man won’t let rare genetic disorder slow him down

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Imagine looking into the mirror and realizing you’re aging a lot quicker than your peers.

Then, in your 20s, having similar physical ailments as your grandparents.

It’s happening to a Durham man.

He can’t stop the aging process, but he’s not letting it stop him from living.


It’s common for 54-year-old Greg Pugh to play his ukulele for hours. He says it takes the pain away.

“I have a really strange genetic disorder, it’s called Werner’s Syndrome,” said Pugh. “I’m like one in 1,500 people who’ve had it.”

Werner’s syndrome is characterized by its appearance of unusually accelerated aging.

“I’ve had three heart attacks, cataracts. The first time I was 33. The bottoms of my feet, the pads of them, wore out so I couldn’t even walk without inches of padding,” said Pugh.

Other symptoms include a hoarse voice, hair loss, severe hardening of the arteries, thinning bones, Type 2 diabetes and wounds that take years to heal.

“Every year or two I’d end up in the hospital with IVs for antibiotics,” said Pugh.

Affected individuals typically grow and develop normally as a child, then a slow growth rate at adolescence.

The mean age of diagnosis is 24.

“In February I got may aortic valve replaced and I feel so good right now! The rest of me can move and my mind is cranking again,” said Pugh.

Being a double amputee, he relies on family and friends to transport him to at least once a week hospital visits, volunteering and meeting up with his band, fittingly called Far from Done.

“It’s time. Relying on people so much. That’s my motivation,” said Pugh.

Motivation to get back his independence by owning and driving a wheelchair accessible van, but with no legs the van would need converting. And that comes with added costs.

“They have these things that attach to the pedals that comes up to the steering wheel,” said Pugh. “To get the basics put into a van to get it converted is upwards of $20,000 to $30,000. It’s just mind boggling.”

A brand new van costs about $50,000.

But, until he can afford such a van, he’ll keep plugging away.

“Mentally, I’m like 21 still,” he laughs.

If you’d like to help, a GoFundMe page has been created titled Help Greg Pugh Drive Again!

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