Child with Rare Genetic Neuromuscular Disease Achieves Highest Level of Functional Independence Thanks to SEHA's Multidisciplinary Care

Child with Rare Genetic Neuromuscular Disease Achieves Highest Level of Functional Independence Thanks to SEHA’s Multidisciplinary Care

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), the largest healthcare network in the United Arab Emirates, highlights the remarkable rehabilitation of Afra Humaid Yousef Alblooshi, a young Emirati diagnosed with a rare genetic disease of spine.

Afra was just three months old when she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, a genetic neuromuscular disease that affects the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles. Without treatment, symptoms include worsening muscle weakness and low muscle tone and can lead to eating and breathing problems.

In April 2021, Afra became one of the first patients to receive a breakthrough gene therapy called Zolgensma, at SEHA’s Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC). By the time she was referred to Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in July 2021, Afra was unable to sit, play, swallow or breathe on her own. Her CHOP-intention score (the standardized assessment to score the functional level of SMA) was low at 26/64. Under the watchful eye and compassionate care of Salma’s multidisciplinary team, Afra began to thrive.

Elaborating further on Afra’s journey, Dr Ashraf Elbatal, Chief Clinical Specialist – Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, said: “At Salma, we just want children to get better. improve as soon as possible and lead a normal and healthy life. Together with Afra, the team worked meticulously to design medical and therapeutic programs that would speed his recovery.

“Afra’s physiotherapist worked on improving and controlling his muscle power and head control; we had an occupational therapist who helped Afra with daily activities like brushing her teeth or eating on her own. Our speech therapist has adapted programs focused on training for dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and applied VFFS (video fluoroscopic study of swallowing) from play therapy to functional oral feeding. Afra was also cared for by a special educator who monitored her developmental milestones daily and organized programs to encourage social interaction. And finally, Salma’s respiratory therapist and our consulting pediatricians gradually weaned her off the ventilator. She received comprehensive care which resulted in a great improvement,” added Marjolein Oosterheert, Head of Therapy at Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital.

Following 360 degree rehabilitation at Salma, today Afra can breathe on her own, can sit without support, walk with the aid of a walker, is enrolled in a regular school program, has a CHOP score -optimal intention (64/64), and can communicate, swallow and orally feed independently.

Afra’s mother, Aziza Alblooshi, said: “Seeing your child unable to communicate is a difficult thing for any parent. We are so grateful to the entire SEHA team, including SKMC and Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, who have rallied behind our baby to ensure she is well and living a relatively normal life. Watching her today fills my heart with joy and for these moments, I wholeheartedly thank everyone across the SEHA network.

Speaking about SEHA’s extensive network integration, Philipp Mielenz, Managing Director of Salma Rehabilitation Hospital, said: “One of the main benefits of being part of the largest healthcare network in the UAE united is that we can provide integrated and coordinated services throughout the treatment stages in order to meet the comprehensive health needs of our patients. Especially for children, SKMC and Salma work closely together and provide excellent quality of care. In the case of Afra, we are proud to have such an impact on a child’s life through our highly specialized and comprehensive rehabilitation at Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, after the highly experienced teams at SKMC administered this state-of-the-art treatment. Excellent collaboration is the key element that has resulted in a remarkable result for the patients here. At SEHA, we will continue to strengthen the integration of our network and provide an even wider range of services to our patients. »

Salma Rehabilitation Hospital is part of the SEHA network and is the network’s sole rehabilitation and long-term care provider. Salma offers a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to health services, working as a team to provide exceptional care and rehabilitation services to her patients.

The hospital is accredited by JCI (Joint Commission International) and is in the process of being accredited by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). Salma Rehabilitation Hospital serves patients in three different locations:

  • Salma Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, a flagship facility. It is the first high-end holistic pediatric hospital in the emirate of Abu Dhabi (mainland) with 83 beds.
  • Salma Rehabilitation Hospital – SKMC provides personalized long-term care and rehabilitation services to adults within Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), with a capacity of 52 beds.
  • Salma – Al Ain Rehabilitation Hospital provides comprehensive long-term care and rehabilitation services for adults and children and has a capacity of 36 beds.

To learn more about the services of Salma Rehabilitation Hospital, make an appointment by calling 800 50 or visit You can also make an appointment via the SEHA Mobile app or WhatsApp at 02-4102200.


About SEHA:

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company PJSC – SEHA – is an independent public limited company established to develop the curative activities of the public health system in Abu Dhabi. The company owns and operates all public hospitals and clinics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

SEHA is an asset of PureHealth, the largest integrated healthcare platform in the United Arab Emirates.

SEHA is committed to continuously improving customer service in accordance with recognized international standards and to providing the community with world-class healthcare. SEHA operates 14 hospitals with over 3,000 beds, 70 outpatient, family care and urgent care centers and 3 blood banks. Its facilities see 117,162 inpatients each year and perform 43,262 surgeries, as well as treating more than five million outpatients.

SEHA is one of the largest integrated healthcare providers in the Middle East with over 14,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliary care staff and administrative staff. Learn more at

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