Just a month before her high school graduation, Hala Shaath was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia.

“Instead of preparing for finals, graduation, and college applications like everyone else,” Hala said, “I was worrying about my treatment and transplant.”

Hala wanted to enroll in classes for the upcoming fall semester, but she soon learned that her condition and treatment meant she could easily catch infections and needed to limit her contact with others. Discouraged but resilient, she wanted to enroll in online classes instead, but her doctors explained that she may be too exhausted to keep up with her coursework.

“I was very devastated,” Hala said. “I wanted to start college with my friends and feel that excitement they were feeling, but I felt the complete opposite.”

During her time on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of Texas Children’s Hospital, Hala “had some good days, and some bad days where I felt horrible and really thought to myself that I really would not be able to do what I had planned to do — go to college and live my life.”

Her BMTU stay was “extremely tough,” but Hala’s nurses made her feel truly cared for and like she had a group of friends during her stay in the hospital. They didn’t just administer medications and record her symptoms, they gave her life advice and told her to keep her head up and believe that everything would be okay.

“That gave me hope and motivation to get better so I can do everything I want to do in life,” Hala said.

The shopping service provided by His Grace Foundation felt like weekly “gifts” to Hala, cheering her up and keeping her well-supplied with the things she needed to endure her stay on the BMTU. But perhaps the sweetest gift HGF gave Hala wasn’t material, but relational. While visiting the His Grace Foundation website, Hala found the story of Briana Donis.

Hala couldn’t believe everything she and Briana had in common. Not only had they both been diagnosed with aplastic anemia during the spring semesters of their senior years of high school, but they had attended the same high school! Now, Briana is an Applied Movement Science student at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I followed Briana on Instagram and contacted her,” Hala said. “Once I saw how well Bri was doing years after her transplant it made me feel so much better and helped me realize that one day this will all be behind me!”

Hala had a bone marrow transplant in the summer of 2019, and by January of 2020, she had enrolled in classes at Houston Community College.

“Even though I am behind by a semester, I want to start tackling some of my basics so I can transfer to the University of Houston in 2 years,” she said. “Hopefully by then, I will be able to go on campus to experience the college life I have always dreamed of.”

Hala, like Briana, chose a degree path — Clinical Social Work — that will lead to a career helping others. Hala wants to help others feel the way that her nurses, social worker, and the HGF team made her feel — like she wasn’t alone.