DUBAI: Mohammad Farooq Abou Al Hassan, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, is your average 24-year-old Arab male. The only difference is that he hasn't aged a day since he was 12 years old.
He is the second child in his family of four girls and five boys, all residents of Sharjah.
Mohammad realised around the age of 12 that his siblings were growing up, while he physically remained the same. His parents took him to a doctor. His condition was diagnosed as a "hormonal imbalance". That description infuriates Mohammad.
Hormonal imbalance occurs when chemical messengers regulating our body's systems stop functioning. Children with growth hormone deficiency have normal intelligence, but they could be shorter and their faces often appear younger than children of the same age.
Mohammad's condition is not without hope. There is a medical solution but the young man refuses to follow it up. "My case is similar to Lionel Messi's. His club sponsored his treatment, so if I took the hormone injections things might change. I tried them a few years ago for two weeks, but I couldn't continue. It hurt too much," he told XPRESS.
It is not easy being a 24-year-old in a 12-year-old's body. To many he comes across as an "oddity" but he doesn't let it affect him.
"When I was 18, a copy of my passport in hand, I went to a driver's licence issuing centre. They told me to bring my dad along. But when my dad accompanied me, we were told to head to the headquarters," said Mohammad, adding that the branch had thought his passport was fake. Eventually he received his driving licence.
But his problems didn't end there. More trouble awaited him on the road. "A few days after I received my licence, I took a friend on a drive. We were pulled over by police and even though I was the one in the driver's seat, the policeman asked for my friend's driver's licence."
Mohammad still remembers the look on the policeman's face when he told him he had his own driver's licence. "You should have seen the shock on his face when he realised that my licence was not fake, which was his initial conclusion, naturally," Mohammad said.
In time he has become rather familiar with Sharjah Police. "If I am ever pulled over, I just know that this guy is new to the force."
I FEEL LIKE A STAR
His driving issues extend to his job as a cameraman, too. "When I'm on the job I drive the station's vehicle, so obviously, when I'm pulled over they call the TV station to make sure I am who I say I am," Mohammad said.
On the rare occasion that Mohammad goes clubbing with his friends, he has to show several IDs to prove his age. "The minute I enter the club, I feel like all the eyes are on me, I feel like a star really!"
At work, Mohammad's colleagues lovingly call him "Farfor" which means the cute little mouse. He said: "One of the things I absolutely love about working at DM TV is that I am treated as an equal. I don't receive special treatment. I have a programme of my own that comes out every Ramadan called The Young and the Adult."
The programme reflects Mohammad's character. He said: "I wanted to show our viewers that there are kids out there who may be young in body, but adult in their way of thinking, kind of like me.
"I'm grateful to DM TV, it gave me a purpose. I never thought I'd find a place that would hire me full time. I graduated from Ahmad Bin Hanbal High School in Sharjah, and then attended sessions at a media institute. However, I received my actual education in the field at DM TV." Besides his never-ending encounters with the police and his clubbing issues, Mohammad has a 21-year-old girlfriend. They met seven years ago and are still going strong.
He said: "I liked her and fell in love with her, naturally I am considering proposing to her when the time is right.
"I realise that she looks young now. I'm also aware that at some point she will age, but that is not a concern for me, I love her. I may not physically grow up to match her growth, but my love for her will grow to keep up with her."
Footballer Lionel Messi was found to have a growth hormone deficiency when he was 10. He needed growth hormones or he would have stopped growing at 4ft 7in. Barcelona offered to pay for the treatment in return for Messi signing for them aged just 13. The rest is history.