Seha saves Emirati baby’s life with pathbreaking care

Seha saves Emirati baby’s life with pathbreaking care
Seha saves Emirati baby’s life with pathbreaking care

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Nevin Al Sukari - Abu Dhabi - Afra with Dr Omar and her parents.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, (Seha), the UAE’s largest healthcare network, successfully treated 17-month-old Emirati baby Afra, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

SMA is a group of inherited diseases that damage nerve cells in the spinal cord called motor neurons. This damage is progressive (increases over time), affecting actions like swallowing, breathing, sitting, and walking. SMA is passed on to children by parents through abnormal genes, with the most common form of SMA caused by an unusual or missing survival motor neuron 1 gene (SMN1 gene).

A specialised team at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), part of the Seha network, successfully diagnosed Afra with the rare genetic disease and developed a comprehensive treatment plan to prevent the condition from further deteriorating, including the provision of a particular type of genetic treatment that was imported from abroad specifically for Afra.

Dr. Mariam Buti Al Mazrouei, Chief Executive Director, SKMC, said: “Seha is relentlessly devoted to providing world-class healthcare to members of our community through distinguished medical, technical and administrative staff using the latest in technology and pharmaceuticals available globally. Thanks to the UAE’s robust and ever-expanding healthcare landscape enabled by the visionary direction from authorities and leadership, we have fast, simple and streamlined access to integral tools and resources from abroad.

“Afra’s journey towards recovery is a significant achievement, not just for the Seha network but for the wider healthcare ecosystem in the country, as we provide hope and create impact for families with children diagnosed with SMA.”

Dr. Omar Ismail, Head of Paediatric Neurology and Paediatric Neurology Consultant, SKMC, said: “The key to successfully overcoming SMA is early diagnosis and implementation of a vigorous treatment strategy, this is to keep the nerve cells ( neurons) as intact as possible and prevent further damage. In Afra’s case, even though she was brought into SKMC quite late with affected limbs, we quickly jumped into action with an inclusive treatment plan that prevented further deterioration of her muscles while we waited for the required genetic treatment to arrive from abroad. This particularly helped with Afra’s breathing muscles and eliminated the need for an artificial respiratory device.”

The genetic treatment provided to Afra cures the root cause of the disease. The virus vectors target the affected neurons and insert a copy of normal SMN1 gene. Thereafter the muscle will continue to work well with improving movement and functions.

“I first noticed abnormal movements in Afra when she was only 3 months old and quickly consulted a paediatric physician in our home Emirate. After multiple tests, Afra was diagnosed with SMA and transferred to SKMC where the medical team examined her thoroughly and implemented a robust treatment plan. I am tremendously grateful to the team at SKMC and the wider Seha network for their diligence in treating my daughter,” added Afra’s mother.

The Paediatric Neurology Service at SKMC is one of the largest and the most comprehensive services in the emirate. They provide assessment, investigation, and management of a complete range of paediatric neurological conditions, including acute neurological disorders with common and uncommon presentation and complications. SKMC also has specialised neuro-clinics such as BOTOX clinics, Ketogenic Diet clinic, Spina Bifida, Complex epilepsy, and neuromuscular clinic.

Seha not only treats children, but also attaches great importance to senior citizens and is keen to provide them with high quality health care according to the highest international standards.

In a recent statement to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Dr. Marwan Al Kaabi, Group Chief Operations Officer at Seha, said that the company – in line with the directives of the UAE’s wise leadership – is making every possible effort to devote special attention to senior citizens.

He added that Seha – in coordination with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) and the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) – provided many health services to senior citizens to ensure their safety during the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the most prominent of these services are mobile clinics to provide medical care, diagnostic and treatment services for senior citizens and those with chronic diseases, as well as specialised psychiatric clinics.

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