17yo Regina, survivor of rare blinding disease, INTERVIEWS Putin in wish-fulfilling meeting (VIDEO)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a special interview this week, a one-on-one with a 17-year-old girl who has a health condition. She made up for her lack of journalism experience with incredible willpower and fighting spirit.
Putin met Regina Parpieva shortly after wrapping up his big annual Q&A session with a large crowd of reporters. The interview was fulfilling a wish that the teenager had – granted with a little help from RT.
Regina has a rare autoimmune condition called neuromyelitis optica, or Devic’s disease, which causes damage to spinal cord and optic nerves. This did not prevent her from becoming a brilliant swimmer – vying for a spot in the Russian Paralympic team – as well as a budding musician and sculptor.
But for all of the girl’s talents, she had a dream some would think unthinkable for her to achieve – becoming a journalist. And when given a chance to try it out, Regina knew who she would want to interview, the Russian president.
When Putin arrived, Regina appeared to be somewhat stunned, and the two briefly switched roles, with the president asking the girl some questions and learning that she just took silver in a swimming contest in Moscow.
Regina then took the initiative, mildly “grilling” Putin about his first days as president and whether he wished to become one in the first place.
The conversation turned more informal as the girl asked Putin about his music preferences and what present he wanted for New Year. The president said a better life for everyone in Russia as his government’s goals are achieved would be his best present ever.
As the two were saying their goodbyes, Regina asked permission to touch Putin’s face to ‘see’ it, and then drew the conclusion that he was a handsome man and a nice person. Her mother Gulnara later said this was not scripted.
“Regina is very happy that her wish came true and is overjoyed with how it happened. Of course she had somewhat of a stage fright. Even though she prepared for the talk, she knew Putin is a very important person,” Gulnara told journalists. “Giving respect where it’s due, he answered her questions in detail and it all went very friendly.”
The story of Regina’s life is remarkable and could have ended years ago. When she was eight, she went permanently and completely blind in a matter of weeks and her health was rapidly deteriorating.
Soon she could only move in a wheelchair while doctors were still struggling to diagnose what was wrong. The disease took a toll on her family, originally from Uzbekistan, with the father abandoning Gulnara and two kids.
When she was ten, Regina underwent marrow transplantation with her brother Timur serving as donor. The treatment was experimental and ultimately was a failure, after the transplant got rejected several months later. But the family did not give up.
Two years later tried another experimental treatment involving stem cells, which resulted in a remission. The 12-year-old Regina soon could walk again. The technique that most likely saved her life is now used to treat other kids with the same condition.
The girl has since took on swimming and become a promising athlete. She also learned to play piano and discovered a knack for arts and crafts, particularly sculpting.
Regina’s path crossed with Putin’s earlier this month when the Russian president attended a forum of a charity that fulfills the wishes of children and old people with life-threatening conditions – the Russian counterpart to the “Make-a-Wish” non-profit of the ‘Batkid’ fame.
Regina believes that courage, willpower and assertiveness are the most important skills a journalist should have. When she finishes school, Regina says she will try to study journalism at Moscow University. She hopes one day she can interview Nick Vujicic, the famous Australian Christian evangelist, who has a fulfilling life despite not having arms and legs due to a rare birth defect.
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