Teen with 20% Chance of Survival Beats Sickle Cell and Proceeds to Harvard to Study Medicine

Hanif Mouehla was just eight years old when he was admitted to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester County, New York. He was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when he was eight years old, and he soon found himself in a life-threatening scenario.

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At the time, his condition was deteriorating, and physicians were forced to place him in a coma when the sickness caused both of his lungs to fail.

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

His prognosis was uncertain for six weeks, and physicians doubted he would survive. The little kid, however, fought back and is now explaining how an experimental stem cell transplant not only saved his life, but also given him a sense of 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 thinking about studying pre-medicine at Harvard University since the care he received inspired him to repay the favor someday.

Dr. Mitchell Cairo, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist who treated him over ten years ago, now works with the young graduate. Dr. Cairo is overjoyed that Hanif is now free of sickle cell illness.

“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.

Last summer, Hanif joined the doctor in the research lab, having a mutual aim to find a cure for the devastating sickness, a genetic blood ailment that affects an estimated 70,000-100,000 Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease is also most prevalent in the Black population, where one in every 13 persons is diagnosed each year.

The hospital reported that a few centers are currently participating in Dr. Cairo’s sickle cell disease treatment clinical study, which is currently in its second phase.

Dr. Cairo’s study led to Hanif receiving a familial haploidentical stem cell transplant from his mother, Khuraira Musa, years ago, 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.”

His experience motivated the 17-year-old’s desire to work in medicine, and he has worked hard to accomplish his dream in the years after his transplant and recuperation.

The new graduate excelled academically at Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, New Jersey, where he also served as class president and played football. In December of last year, Hanif learnt that he had been accepted into the Harvard University Class of 2027.

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

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