Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Legacy of indomitable Emirati Khalifa Al Muhairi to live on

Tributes paid to inspirational cancer patient who died on Tuesday

Khalifa Al Muhairi, who died on Tuesday, during his time as a Special Olympics ambassador when the Flame of Hope passed through Zabeel Park in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Khalifa Al Muhairi, who died on Tuesday, during his time as a Special Olympics ambassador when the Flame of Hope passed through Zabeel Park in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Few people wear the scars of illness like a badge of honour, but that is exactly what brave Dubai policeman Khalifa Al Muhairi did throughout his five-year battle with cancer.

Reflecting his indomitable spirit, Al Muhairi went down fighting on Tuesday, finally succumbing to lung cancer at City Hospital in Dubai.

Condolences and tributes have been widespread, with many saying his legacy will live long in the memory of whoever crossed his path.

Ghada Aljneibi, deputy director-general at the Rahma cancer charity, was one of those inspired by his story.

“Khalifa Al Muhairi was a source of inspiration, not just Emiratis, but for everyone fighting the battle against cancer,” she said.

“We ask Allah the Almighty to bestow peace upon his soul and grant his family peace and comfort in this difficult time.

“His life was a great example of hope and positivity as he lived each day by not giving up.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity of hearing his story.

“It took him a lot of strength and tolerance to keep going and to never lose hope.”

Al Muhairi’s social media self-exposure propelled him into public view last year.

“If we find who we really are within ourselves, we can each achieve great things.”

Khalifa Al Muhairi.

In July 2018, he posted a video seeking funds to pay for his treatment in the US, after being told it would cost about Dh3 million. His plea was famously answered by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, who offered to cover his fees.

On a GoFundMe page created to raise money last year, Al Muhairi said: “I need to survive for my wife, four-year-old son and the society.”

Al Muhairi, 30, was a former smoker and travelled to the US for lung surgery after doctors said he had just a few years to live.

Determined to be fit in time to return home for the Special Olympics World Games in March, Al Muhairi wanted to inspire his son by his powers of recovery.

Most of the online posts to his 28,000 Instagram followers accompanied a selfie with a familiar broad smile or message of hope.

His final Instagram post came from his hospital bed in Dubai on June 20 while he underwent his 31st round of chemotherapy.

With an oxygen mask strapped to his face, Al Muhairi offered a prayer for good health.

“We encourage everyone whose families and friends are diagnosed with cancer to support each other and never give up, despite the challenges and difficulties along the way,” said Ms Aljneibi in her tribute to Al Muhairi.

“Cancer survivorship is not about getting through cancer without dying.

“It is about living through cancer treatment and then finding a way to impact the lives of others.”

A sports and cross-fit gym enthusiast, Al Muhairi continued his intense exercise regimes throughout his punishing cancer treatment.

When surgeons were forced to remove his left leg, his ambition switched to representing his country as a Paralympic athlete.

He became an icon to many Emiratis and others who took inspiration from the matter-of-fact way he dealt with his terminal illness.

That position strengthened in his role as a Special Olympics ambassador, all despite spending weeks in intensive care following repeat surgeries and treatments.

As the Special Olympic Torch passed through the country in March, Al Muhairi joined the tour offering words of encouragement and goodwill to athletes from around the world visiting the UAE to compete.

With his refusal to give up and a ready smile, Al Muhairi drew many in to hear his story.

In the eyes of Al Muhairi, cancer was just another challenge, akin to a marathon, bike race or mountain climb.

He will be remembered as a true Emirati hero, and an example of how to live a good life in the face of real adversity.

In an interview with The National on the eve of the Special Olympics, Al Muhairi offered poignant inspirational words.

“Don’t limit yourself to what other people think you should be,” he said.

“If we find who we really are within ourselves, we can each achieve great things.”

Updated: August 22, 2019 08:48 AM

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