Shanyna Isom has been living a nightmare. She has gone to every specialist who will see her and has traveled as far as The Netherlands in order to receive help. In spite of all of this, doctors have no idea why human fingernails are growing where her hair used to be.
The 28-year old former law student at The University of Memphis is now in a situation where she and her family are seeking whatever answers they can find that might make her well. She’s the only person on the planet with this rare condition and is desperately seeking answers.
“Black scabs were coming out of her skin,” said her mother, Kathy Gary. “The nails would grow so long and come out and regrow themselves. They are hard to touch and stick you.”
Isom is unable to walk without a cane, since the disease is affecting her bones and vision as well. She is being treated currently at Johns Hopkins. She is also stuck with half a million dollars in unpaid medical bills. She has state insurance, but that doesn’t cover her treatment in Maryland for her rare condition. Her mother has also lost her job because she has stayed home with her daughter.
Bank of America has agreed to take donations at any of their branch offices. Friends have organized fundraisers, and her high school has dedicated a football game to her charity.
“I don’t know whether to smile or cry. I am very blessed,” she said, referencing the help she has received.
She also wrote this on her blog: “It has taken all of my hair out and has left my body with scabs all over it, plus I have lost about 200 pounds. Two years ago, I was a healthy woman on my own … had big dreams and goals that I was following until one day my body completely shut down on me.”
Shanyna was a student when the disease hit her in 2009. She went to the doctor after suffering an asthma attack. That was when she was given a large dose of steroids. After she got home, she began to itch.
“It was uncontrollable and we didn’t know what it was,” said her mother.
Beyond the itching, her legs turned black.
“It looked as if she had been in a house fire and gotten burned,” said Gary.
Eventually, the doctors at Johns Hopkins figured out that her body was producing nails where her hair used to grow. She also began losing 10 – 15 pounds every week. She is now on 25 medications and her insurance only covers five of them. Her mother says she is getting better with treatment, but it doesn’t appear that she is ever going to have the same life that she had before the illness took over.