Woman with Familial Hypercholesterolemia Treated with Apheresis

Her brother, her sister, and her father – all people that Salima Mohip lost before they turned 43. Each of them passed away from heart attacks, a consequence of their rare genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. According to News12 Long Island, 51-year-old Salima was also diagnosed with the condition. Although she underwent a double bypass procedure in 2014 to improve her health and reduce arterial cholesterol accumulation, her cholesterol levels continued to rise over time.

However, Salima recently underwent a life-saving treatment at Northwell Health: apheresis. In fact, she was the first person in Long Island to undergo this treatment option! Yale Medicine explains that apheresis:

uses a centrifuge that separates blood into [red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma] by density. [In therapeutic apheresis] on patients who have an illness associated with an abnormal cellular or plasma-based blood component, the abnormal parts of the blood are isolated and removed, then the normal components are returned to the veins.

In Salima’s case, the apheresis machine helps to remove cholesterol from her blood. She has already experienced some benefits from her therapy, including feeling less out-of-breath and more active! Recently, Salima and her sons celebrated her improvement. While Salima wishes the technology had been around to help her family, she is grateful for what apheresis has brought to her life thus far.

About Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH)

LDLR, PCSK9, LDLRAP1, and APOB gene mutations have all been associated with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a rare genetic disorder associated with very high, “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. This condition occurs at birth and, over time, can greatly increase the risk of heart attacks. Normally, cholesterol helps with hormone creation and fat digestion. But too much cholesterol can cause health problems. In familial hypercholesterolemia, blood receptors do not work properly, so excess cholesterol is not removed from the blood. Fmilial hypercholesterolemia is often difficult to treat or treatment-resistant to standard therapies for high cholesterol. Those of Lebanese, Finnish, and French Canadian background are more likely to have familial hypercholesterolemia. Symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Calf cramps
  • Sores on the toes that do not heal
  • Xanthomas (cholesterol buildup, usually in the tendons of the hands, fingers, and Achilles heel)
  • Xanthelesmata (yellowish cholesterol buildup under the eyelids)
  • Sudden stroke-like symptoms such as drooping on one side of the face, difficulty speaking, loss of balance, or arm and leg weakness
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attacks

Learn more about FH through the Family Heart Foundation.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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