A tenacious two-year-old who has battled back from a life-threatening disorder has taken her first steps as she continues a remarkable recovery from bone marrow transplant surgery.
Eman Ali was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency at 17 months, a condition which made her vulnerable to serious infections her body could not ward off.
She has suffered an abscess to her leg, as well as ear and abdominal infections.
“We never left the hospital,” said her father, Mudassar Farooq Farooq Ali, a Pakistani citizen who lives in Dubai with his family.
In July she underwent a bone marrow transplant at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi, with her four-year-old brother, Abdul, as the donor.
The procedure was critical because it allowed doctors to infuse healthy, blood-forming stem cells ― from her sibling ― into her body to replace bone marrow that was not producing enough healthy blood cells.
Eman has passed 100 days since the transplant surgery, a period considered key for patients.
It is viewed by experts as a time when the patient is at the greatest risk of suffering side effects from the transplant and when stem cells are still being integrated into the body.
Delight for family
A child taking their first steps is a joyous moment for any family, but is particularly special for Mr Ali and wife Madiha.
“We are very excited by this great news. Our daughter has been suffering from this dreadful disease since birth. She had multiple hospital admissions and thousands of blood tests causing her to endure severe pain and frustration," Ms Ali said.
"We have no words to express our joy. We are proud that our son has been able to support his sister as a donor. We are grateful that the UAE has BMT facilities at Burjeel Medical City, otherwise we would have struggled a lot to take our child abroad for the treatment.”
Dr Mansi Suchdev, a consultant in paediatric bone marrow transplants at Burjeel Medical City, said early diagnosis is rare, but was vital in this case.
“The most common feature of SCID disease is recurrent severe infections from birth. Although infections can be treated with antibiotics and antiviral medications temporarily, they will return.
"The only permanent curative treatment for these types of diseases is early diagnosis and bone marrow transplantation. Early diagnosis of this disease is rare. Usually, by one year of age, most babies with SCID die of severe infections unless doctors diagnose it early and do a BMT.”
Burjeel's bone marrow transplant unit, which was opened in September, carried out the the first paediatric bone marrow transplant from a donor in the UAE in April.
In the complex and specialised procedure using a matched sibling transplant treatment, Jordana from Uganda received healthy stem cells from her sister Jolina, 10.