BY Dollita Okine, 6:44pm July 11, 2023,

Teen with 20% chance of survival beats sickle cell and proceeds to Harvard to study medicine

The 17-year-old’s desire to work in medicine was sparked by his experience, and he has diligently worked to realize his dream in the years since his transplant and recovery. Photo Credit: Yahoo News UK

Hanif Mouehla was only 8 years old when he was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester County, New York. He was diagnosed with sickle cell shortly after turning eight and soon found himself in a life-threatening situation.

His condition was getting worse at the time, and doctors were compelled to put him in a coma after the illness caused both of his lungs to collapse.

In his words, “I had my worst pain crisis in my life where I had a 20% chance of surviving.”

For six weeks, his prognosis was uncertain, and doctors doubted that he would survive. However, the young boy fought back and is now sharing how an experimental stem cell transplant not only saved his life, but also gave him a purpose.

“Watching the medical center as a whole, that was something I really wanted to emulate and caused me to want to [choose] medicine, specifically being a hematologist,” he said in an exclusive interview with People.

The 17-year-old is considering the pre-med track at Harvard University because the treatment he received motivated him to return the favor someday.

The young graduate currently works with pediatric hematologist-oncologist, Dr. Mitchell Cairo, who treated him nearly ten years ago. Hanif is currently free of sickle cell disease, which makes Dr. Cairo very happy.

“It’s kind of an indescribable feeling because, on top of seeing somebody sort of just resume their normal life, they’re now kicking in the high gear and taking on additional stress to make a difference for the next generation,” Cairo shared.

Hanif joined the doctor in the research lab last summer, sharing a common desire to find a treatment for the crippling illness, an inherited blood disorder that affects an estimated 70,000–100,000 Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease also has the highest incidence in the Black community, where 1 in 13 people receive a diagnosis each year.

The hospital revealed that a few centers are currently taking part in a clinical trial for Dr. Cairo’s sickle cell disease treatment, which is currently in its second phase.

Hanif was given a familial haploidentical stem cell transplant from his mother, Khuraira Musa, years ago, as a result of Dr. Cairo’s research, because none of his siblings were compatible donors.

To make sure that Khuraira’s cells could eliminate the sickle cells in Hanif’s bloodstream, they were first “supercharged” in Cairo’s lab.

A little over a year later, the doctor declared Hanif to be “relatively out of the woods and stable.”

After the young achiever was healed, it was “a wonderful journey,” his mother expressed. “And for me as a parent, I only wish all parents to have what I have with Hanif today.”

The 17-year-old’s desire to work in medicine was sparked by his experience, and he has diligently worked to realize his dream in the years since his transplant and recovery.

The recent graduate excelled academically at Old Tappan, New Jersey’s Northern Valley Regional High School, where he also held the position of class president and participated in football. Hanif learned that he had been accepted into the Harvard University Class of 2027 in December of last year.

According to him, “I would say that from a young age, I was strictly focused on medicine and becoming a doctor.”

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 11, 2023


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