Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

International Thalassaemia Day: Dubai teen cured of debilitating blood condition

Teen given new lease of life after he was cured of genetic blood disease

Dr Rabi Hanna and Hussein Alblooshi at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic
Dr Rabi Hanna and Hussein Alblooshi at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic

A Dubai teenager has been given a new lease of life after he was cured of a debilitating blood disease using a radical new treatment.

Hussein Al Blooshi, 17, suffered from thalassaemia, a debilitating genetic disease where the body makes abnormal or fewer red blood cells.

The condition is common in people of Middle East descent, and about 8.5 per cent of UAE citizens are thought to carry the defective gene.

I used to miss lots of school because I had so many doctors appointments and because I felt exhausted most of the time

Hussein Al Blooshi

Traditionally it is treated with a bone marrow transplant, but it is hard to find a donor because their cells must genetically match those of the recipient. Appropriate donors are only found in about 25 per cent of cases.

Hussein underwent the new treatment called a haplo-identical bone marrow transplant in 2016 in Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, US. With this type of transplant, donor cells only need to match about half of the recipient's important genes, broadening the scope of possible donors significantly.

“Before the procedure I was on heavy medication and had to wake up at night to take the drugs,” Hussein said. “I do not need it any more.

“I used to miss lots of school because I had so many doctors' appointments and because I felt exhausted most of the time. Now I go to school regularly."

His mother, Farida, said that Hussein's disease affected the whole family, who were worried and had to travel extensively to seek treatment, taking her and her husband away from his siblings.

“I had so many sleepless nights," Farida said. "I had to check on Hussein every night to make sure he was well. I was constantly living in fear."

Thalassaemia can be fatal as a lot of blood transfusions are needed and, over time, an influx of haemoglobin can lead to a build-up of iron in the body, resulting in heart, liver and hormone problems.

With International Thalassaemia Day being marked on May 8, Hussein's message for others with the disease is: “Never give up hope."

"I truly believe that everyone has the chance to be cured as nothing is impossible," he said.

Updated: May 9, 2019 04:50 AM

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