Written by Ian Ord
Criminal justice student Shanya A. Isom has acquired a very strange medical condition which causes her body to grow nails instead of hair. That’s right – human nails. It started in 2009 with an asthma attack, which doctors treated using steroids. But something went wrong and her body had some kind of allergic reaction, which first showed itself as bumps on Shanya’s leg. The illness soon spread to the rest of her body, which blackened her skin and affected her ability to walk.
In 2001, when going to Baltimore for treatment, doctors found that the bumps on her skin were in fact human nails. Shanya was producing 12 times the normal number of skin cells per hair follicle. In other words, where there should be hair, there are nails instead. It’s a mystery illness that has confounded doctors, but they have been able to control her symptoms. She can now get around on her own using a cane.
Said her mother:
“It looked as if she had been in a house fire and gotten burned. Black scabs were coming out of her skin. The nails would grow so long and come out and regrow themselves. They are hard to touch and stick you.”
All tests so far (including a bone marrow biopsy) turned out negative. Genetic tests have been performed but the results have not returned yet. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center say she is the only person in the world with this strange, unknown condition. She is doing better now, but she is on 25 different meds, and her insurance only covers five of them. Her unpaid medical bills have piled up to a half a million dollars. In response, fundraisers and charities have sprung into action. Bank of America has agreed to take donations at any of their branch offices.
Isom has also created the S.A.I. Foundation. Donations are accepted.