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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

UAE Portrait of a Nation: Crippling illness is no barrier for this determined Emirati cook

Emirati Abeer Thani Mohammed Almansoori needs constant care, but is determined to open her own restaurant in Khalifa City

Abeer Thani Mohammed Almansoori with a therapist. Amana Healthcare
Abeer Thani Mohammed Almansoori with a therapist. Amana Healthcare

It is a little over three years since Abeer Thani Mohammed Almansoori first passed through the doors of Amana Healthcare in Abu Dhabi.

Since then, the Emirati’s life has become a whole lot easier as she focuses her ambition of opening a restaurant with her brother to feed her passion for cooking and baking.

Starting a new business is a challenge for anyone, but as Abeer is living with muscular dystrophy and chronic respiratory failure, making her dreams a reality are an even greater challenge.

The support she receives from her specialised care team and regular family visits to the centre in Khalifa City A is allowing her to chase her dreams, despite requiring a ventilator to breathe and with no functional active movement in her arms and legs.

A strong will and cognitive function continues to allow Ms Almansoori to make independent decisions, and develop her passion for coming up with new recipes, and drafting articles for the Amana Healthcare Newsletter.

“I just loved cooking and baking from a young age,” she said.

“I used to bake with my nanny when I was still young and living at home. Now I know all the recipes by heart and I am able to explore and try different things.

“The main reason I love baking is because I do it for others. I love to make food for family, friends and Amana staff members.

“This really makes me happy, to be able to give. I baked for the Mother’s Day celebration at Amana and everybody loved my food.

“I would like to open a restaurant in Khalifa city A, Abu Dhabi, which will serve Arabic, Asian and Italian foods. My brother Mohammed and myself will make food and call the restaurant Almansoori's.”

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Muscular dystrophy is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

Mutated genes interfere with the production of proteins needed to form healthy muscle, with symptoms most commonly beginning in childhood.

There's no cure for muscular dystrophy, but medications and therapy can help manage symptoms and slow the course of the disease.

The main sign of muscular dystrophy is progressive muscle weakness, which makes Ms Almansoori, who is from Ras Al Khaimah, fully dependent on others in terms of all physical activities.

The only active movement she has is in her feet, and although not able to sit by herself, use her hands or control her head, she doesn’t feel that she has any obstacles in life.

Previously Abeer used to dictate her ideas to her care workers, and her occupational therapist would type out newsletter articles for her.

Although she speaks English, Ms Almansoori is still learning to read and write in English and is practicing typing with her feet on her adapted iPad with switch control so she can type out the articles herself in future.

The 36-year-old is the brains behind all her activities, with the Amana staff taking her instructions to help with her baking.

She has memorised all her secret recipes, as she used to bake with her grandmother when she was still living at home and loves to try out different variations.

By doing so, she is constantly coming up with her own recipes, with staff at the hospital particularly keen on her pasta dishes, blueberry cupcakes, orange cake and cookies.

“I love making gifts for my family from recycled materials, like empty bottles,” she said.

“I made a decorated bottle filled with sweets as a birthday gift for my sister. My therapist mentioned the newsletter when it first came out and we thought it was a great idea to practice my English spelling, so I write about my outings to different places.”

Abeer hopes to inspire others living with muscular dystrophy to not give up on chasing their dreams.

“I will tell them to stay strong and believe in God,” she said.

“God will give you strength to stay strong and be the best you can be.

“One day I would like to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed because he is just like his father, Sheikh Zayed. He is kind-hearted and my idol.”