For Salima Mohip, this will be a Mother’s Day like no other. Finally, the mother of three sons can anticipate a life that won’t be shortened by the genetic condition that caused her parents and two of her siblings to die in their 30s. Mohip, 51, of Elmont, credits her new lease on life to her medical team at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital (SABHH) of Northwell Health.
With her sons by her side, the grateful mother returned to SABHH for an early Mother’s Day celebration and to thank the doctors and nurses who provide the cutting-edge treatment known as apheresis that will extend her life. Apheresis–a technology that separates blood components to treat different conditions, including Mohip’s—is available in three hospitals in New York; SABHH is the only facility on Long Island to provide this treatment option.
Ben Hirsh, MD, director of preventive cardiology, SABHH, explained, “We are here today because of Salima, who came to me because of a rare genetic disorder known as hypercholesterolemia that caused so many of her family members to pass away in their 30s.”
Dr. Hirsh placed Mohip on five different medications, all to no avail.
“Despite all of these medications, her LDL (bad cholesterol) remained in the 190s and our goal was to bring it down to under 70,” he continued. “It was clear that she was a perfect candidate for apheresis, meaning that she would become the first patient to undergo this treatment on Long Island.”
Guy Mintz, MD, director of cardiovascular health and lipidology, SABHH, noted that Mohip is already showing marked signs of improvement after just three treatments.
“The potentially deadly disease that has proved so devastating Salima’s family is known as hypercholesterolemia, an excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that the body needs to work properly. Too much bad cholesterol increases the chance of getting heart disease, stroke and other problems. When medications don’t work, as in Salima’s case, we can consider apheresis.
“Apheresis is an extracorporeal therapy, which means is happens outside the body, in which the patient’s blood is passed through an apparatus that filters out cholesterol and returns the cleansed blood back into the body,” said Mintz. “It is a rigorous treatment, lasting three-four hours at a time, every two weeks for the rest of one’s life. But the advantages to patients like Salima—less cholesterol, reduced inflammation and internal damage, and less risk of additional cardiac problems—make it a life-saving treatment option.”
Because it is a genetic disorder, Mohip’s three sons have already shown dangerously high levels of cholesterol in their blood. For this reason, they are also being followed by the team.
Mohip expressed her gratitude for the possibility of a longer life, while acknowledging the loss of her loved ones to the same disease. Her own history with heart disease dates back more than 20 years. In 2002, an angioplasty revealed that 95 percent of one artery was blocked. In 2014, she was rushed to Long Island Jewish Medical Center because she couldn’t breathe. That episode resulted in open-heart surgery.
“It was definitely bittersweet to begin these treatments last month,” said Mohip, “While I was sitting in the hospital having the procedure done, I couldn’t help but think of my parents and my siblings, all who passed away so early because these treatments were not available to them.”
In celebration of Mother’s Day, Mohip’s three sons were on hand to present their mother with two dozen roses. Calling her a “fighter,” they wanted her to know that they support her courage during her health challenges and that they will work through it all as a family.
Flanked by her medical team and her three sons, Mohip said, “These are my blessings. I am so grateful.”
Northwell opened its lipid center in 2019—the first lipid center on Long Island. As part of the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, it is focused on cardiac disease prevention and cholesterol management. The hospital was recently recognized for being one of the nation’s top 50 hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report. To contact a lipid specialist, call 516-321-7455.