How Manu Went From Homelessness to Hospital Intern

Born with the hereditary incurable blood disorder sickle cell anemia, Eugene Manu grew up shuttled between hospitals, homeless shelters, foster homes and continents.  But now, thanks in large part to the stability and support he received at Create, a homeless shelter for teens affiliated with Catholic Charities, Eugene is living on his own and he’s completed his Associate’s Degree.  And that is just a beginning.  His goal, he says, is to become a medical doctor.

Yet that he is alive, let alone thriving, is nothing short of a miracle.

“When he first came to us we didn’t know if he would live,” says Stephanie Ali, Create’s  vocation coordinator.

Struggling to stay alive is Eugene’s earliest memory.  His unmarried mother, unable to take care of Eugene’s significant health needs and provide for him with her just-above-minimum-wage salary as a home health aide in New York sent him as an infant to live with his grandmother in Ghana.  When he returned at age seven to live with his mother, they moved from homeless shelter to homeless shelter where he was bullied by bigger boys.  Then, when he was ten years old, she placed him in foster care, taking him back occasionally to live with her.

He dropped out of school, became homeless and, with pneumonia and barely able to walk, found his way to Create homeless shelter in March 2013.  Create called an ambulance and rushed him to Harlem Hospital.  They learned that complications caused by sickle cell anemia caused him to lose hemoglobin, obstructed his breathing and left him unable to swallow his medication. 

Fortunately, he recovered enough to return to Create .  There, he was helped to regain his health and rebuild his life.  First on the list was his GED since he had never finished high school.  After that, Create helped him prepare for his SATs. Then they helped him apply and receive a grant to attend Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Graduating, however, represents only a beginning, Eugene says.  He plans to continue his studies so he can become a medical doctor and cure people from currently incurable diseases like his.   And he’s on his way.  He landed an internship shadowing doctors at a local hospital.

Yet, while Eugene’s Lazarus-like recovery seems startling to others, for Eugene it’s just life.

“Everybody goes through stuff,” Eugene says.  “I’ve learned that challenges strengthen and make us better.”