TEANECK, N.J. -- For more than two dozen people who walked through Teaneck's Votee Park on Saturday to spread awareness of sickle cell anemia, their 10-year-old leader's moniker said it all.
In Nigerian, Hanif Mouehla's name means "true believer."
The event -- which emphasized the importance of bone marrow donation -- was organized by Hanif's mother, Khuraira Musa of Pomona, who owns Khuraira Cosmetics in Tenafly.
“It’s a global disease," said physician Claudio Sandoval. "And it’s not just a regular growing pain. It comes on unexpectedly.”
The red blood cell disorder is prominent among those of African backgrounds, but it’s also widely found in the Mediterranean and in Hispanic and Middle Eastern regions.
Sandoval, fellow doctor Cori Abikoff and pediatric oncologists and hematologists worked more than two years with Hanif out of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center.
Hanif’s worst moments found him needing a breathing tube and coming close to kidney failure. Eventually doctors put him in an induced coma to allow his body to rest.
Hanif soon after received bone marrow donated by his mother. According to Abikoff, they collected her peripheral blood stem cells intravenously. The entire process took about a week.
Her son's procedure took between three to six months. His body began to adapt to the new baby cells in 10 days, and he’s only been back to the hospital for checkups.
“I find it truly amazing to see how modern day medicine can bring someone back to life that was near death,” said one of the event participants, Karen Beckford-Bennett.
It’s all about curing and delivering.
“I am the tool, they are the heroes,” Abikoff said, smiling. “I love what I do on days like this.”
Hanif wants to enlighten the world about sickle cell disease -- doing speaking engagements as part of a program at his school called "Real Men Read."
“I can speak as a parent but it has to come from him,” said Musa, adding that their family is banging on the doors of local lawmakers for more grants while organizing future walks.
Hanif -- an avid basketball player, Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and A student -- hopes to one day study medicine to help other ill children.
“I asked my dad what school is best to study medicine and he said Yale," the youngster said. "So that’s where I want to go.”
Information on becoming a possible bone marrow donor can be found at www.bethematch.org .
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