Teen Who Beat Sickle Cell Disease Headed To Harvard University To Help Others
Hanif Mouehla was just 8-years-old when he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease. Now 17, Mouehla has been inspired to care for others like him. He’s headed to Harvard University to study pre-med to help others facing this deadly disease, People reports.
The sickle cell survivor and recent graduate of Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, New Jersey, says his future studies will help him pay it forward.
“I would say that from a young age, I was strictly focused on medicine and becoming a doctor,” Mouehla said. “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.”
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The young scholar’s survival story started years ago when he found himself in ICU at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in New York. Mouehla’s sickle cell condition was worsening and doctors placed him in a coma after both of his lungs collapsed. He spent six weeks in the hospital; doctors weren’t sure if he would survive, giving him a 20% chance.
Soon an experimental stem cell transplant would saved Mouehla and give him a new perspective on life.
Ten years later, he reconnected with the pediatric hematology-oncology specialist who treated him. Dr. Mitchell Cairo became the teen’s boss as he worked in Cairo’s research lab in 2022 to find a cure for sickle cell.
The inherited blood disorder affects an estimated 70,000 to100,000 Americans—with 1 in 13 African-Americans diagnosed each year.
Mouehla is currently free of sickle cell disease, according to Face2Face Africa, after receiving the familial haploidentical stem cell transplant from his mother, Khuraira Musa.
“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 said.