(Note: Sorry about the 30 seconds of weirdness at the start of this video. It's the only one I could find on YouTube though.)
Just three years ago Shanyna Isom was studying at the University of Memphis and had a promising career in criminal justice ahead of her. Now she is suffering from a rare debilitating illness—so rare that she is the only person in the world known to have it.
What started as a routine steroid treatment for an asthma attack mysteriously developed into a traumatizing skin deformity, causing her hair follicles to grow human nails. Though she has seen some of the best specialists in the world, the origins of her aggressive disease remain unclear.
Isom's body produces twelve times the number of skin cells per hair follicle. This causes her skin to suffocate, and instead of growing hair, her skin produces human nails. Isom’s own description is more blunt: “where hair grows, nails are growing.” Isom’s face and arms are covered in a tiny needlelike protrusions made of human nails.
The good news is that she was admitted to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in August of 2011 where doctors have been able to control her condition. Before being checking into the hospital, Isom had lost the ability to walk, or even to sit up. Now, with aggressive treatment—and the help of a cane—she’s able to walk again. The bad news is that they’ve found no cure, and her medical bills continue to mount. The 17 medications and out-of-state medical expenses have become unmanageable, leaving Isom with roughly a quarter of a million dollars in outstanding medical bills.
—This post was written by editorial intern Lowen Howard.