Disability is just a mental block for this Emirati woman

Disability is just a mental block for this Emirati woman

Yusra with motor neurone disease is dependent on a ventilator for survival but she hasn’t allowed her condition to dim her ambition and passion for life.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

Published: Tue 26 Aug 2014, 12:13 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:53 AM

Yusra Yasser Mayouf Alhattali lies expectantly in her bed, her manicured fingers poised on her laptop’s keyboard — her constant companion. She has a visitor and is excited to chat, but she can only do so by typing.

Yusra Yasser at ProVita Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi. — KT photos by Shoaib Anwer

Yusra was born with motor neurone disease (MND), which led to chronic respiratory failure and her dependence on ventilator. MND is a serious and incurable form of progressive neurodegeneration — the nerves in the spine and brain progressively lose function over time.

With her condition, Yusra has very limited mobility except for her hands, mouth and eyelids. She spent most of her life cared for in the ICU — a very restrictive environment for someone with Yusra’s ambition and passion for life.

That was before she became a resident at ProVita International Medical Centre. “I was in hospital for a long time, but when I came here around two years ago, my life changed because I’m able to do anything I want,” types Yusra.

ProVita, which opened in 2010 in Khalifa City, is the first in the UAE and the region to provide patient-centric, long-term care for ventilated patients in a personalised, non-hospital setting.

At ProVita, the 27-year-old Emirati realised some of her dreams. She was able to continue her college education, take up painting courses and finally have a social life. “I completed my ... (high school) in hospital but I couldn’t go to university till I came here. Now I’m studying English as foundation (course) at Zayed University. After four months, I will start Art as a degree,” Yusra says proudly.

“I go to university everyday, it’s not easy but I enjoy doing something I like. In university, they helped me and they understand my situation. I’m going with two nurses from here and they allowed them to be with me in the class.”

ProVita CEO Michael Davis says: “Living at ProVita has given Yusra access to the type of healthcare she requires, but allows her to live her life in a homelike environment with nursing, respiratory therapy, and physician oversight round the clock. ProVita’s staff also accompanies Yusra to school five days a week and to other social outings as her school schedule allows. Yusra is now as busy as any young girl in her twenties in spite of her condition.”

A special visit

One of Yusra’s greatest achievements and a source of pride was a visit by Lt-General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, who encouraged her painting skills by asking her to exhibit her work at the Armed Forces Officers Club last year.

“I hope to open my second (exhibit),” Yusra says, noting that her art pieces mostly feature faces in water colour. “I like to draw faces, (specifically) half face because every face has two sides that you can’t see ... some people show the happy side and they don’t show the sad side,” she explains.

But for Yusra, she finds happiness in her life. She gets to do what she wants, albeit with supervision, visits her family twice a week, gets visited by her favourite pets — two parrots named Joe and Koko, a gift from her two brothers — and still has time to pursue other hobbies. Yusra has started to cook and will soon start to learn how to sew.

So, is Yusra happy here? “Yes, I’m happy because I feel I’m home,” Yusra affirms.

Treatment portfolio

There are currently about 40 residents at ProVita Abu Dhabi and 30 at its branch in Al Ain with patients aged between under one year to almost 100 years. Since the opening of ProVita Al Ain last year, four patients were transferred from the Abu Dhabi facility.

“We treat a broad spectrum of clinical conditions with the commonality being that the majority of our patients are dependent on a ventilator to breathe. Their underlying conditions range from congenital birth defects such as spinal muscular atrophy; road traffic and other accidents; anoxic brain injuries at birth; adult patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease that has led to heart attacks and strokes; cancer; and other conditions such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). We are able to treat most patients whose acute underlying condition has been treated, but requires long-term mechanical ventilation via a breathing machine,” Davis states.

ProVita Abu Dhabi has almost 200 full-time staff while Al Ain has over 100. They include a variety of physician specialties including anaesthesia and critical care, paediatrics, neuro rehabilitation, neonatology, internal medicine and family practice, supported by nurses and caregivers. The therapy department consists of physiotherapists, rehab technicians, a speech and language pathologists, and round-the-clock coverage by respiratory therapist.

“At ProVita we provide a highly intensive care model with 1:1 nursing, 24/7 physician coverage and full therapy and clinical support services and we do so within an innovative physical space designed to provide maximum clinical efficiency while reflecting a home environment and enhancing each patient’s quality of life.

“We believe in the human potential in each of our patients, regardless of their physical condition, and our firm commitment to promoting that quality of life in a space that each patient can call home sets us apart,” Davis adds.

ProVita Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are both accredited by the Joint Commission International.


You can get in touch with Yusra via her Instagram account at yus_32.

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