Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Shardai Cousino

I've been meaning to post this for over a week now. Ack. Time goes by quickly!!! Below is an article written by a local newspaper, specifically by Yvonne Moon, who I had the pleasure of meeting when she interviewed me for the same paper. Yvonne wrote this article and sent out a plea for help for this young girl. Information on how you can make a difference in this girl's life is below. Again, I personally know the lady who wrote this article after interviewing this family, so it's not a hoax of any kind. Goodness knows, I get enough of those in my inbox to feel the need to say that. Please take the time to shoot an email to with “Please Build a House for the Cousino Family in Smyrna, TN” in the subject line. In the email, please ask ABC to build a house for the Cousino family in Smyrna, TN. Feel free to add your own message about why you think this family is deserving.

Here's Yvonne's article:

All God's angels come to us disguised.

~ James Russell Lowell

In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the angel Clarence was a ruddy-faced, befuddled character, very unlike the image we fathom when we think of angels. Upon meeting my Fascinating Folks person for this week, I couldn’t help but think of the saying that “angels come in all shapes and sizes, often at the times we least expect.”

Thirteen-year-old Shardai Cousino, with her impish grin, wire-rimmed glasses, and shock of black hair has no telltale halo or wings protruding.

Instead she has multiple medical challenges including a very painful skin disorder that causes blister-like sores over her entire body. Each day is an ordeal that begins with wrapping various areas of her body with medicated wraps and gauze to help protect the delicate skin. Baths can be excruciating, often taking anywhere from three to eight hours. Valium is necessary to help ease the pain. Shardai is often confined to a wheelchair but her spirit soars with a boundless enthusiasm for life.

As we began our interview, we talked about the other things important in her life --- her family, her school, her teachers and all the things she loves. How she loves hip-hop, Logan’s Teriyaki Chicken, Sour Straws candy, scary movies and amusement parks with thrill rides. How math was her favorite subject but now she likes science best. She told of how her class was reading the book, The Diary of Anne Frank. Shardai spoke about the Holocaust and of how a special teacher’s lessons were teaching her and other young students how people can triumph over tragedy.

The “hows” of life are often much easier than the “whys?”

We talked for a while about the medical conditions she lives with daily.

Shardai laughed at how trying to maneuver her wheelchair down the narrow hallway of her home is like “trying to drive a semi-truck on a crowded McDonald’s parking lot.” She told of the limitations of not being able to enter through the front or back door of the home in her wheelchair. And of her dream of someday having a bathroom with plenty of storage for her bandages and medications and a bathtub/shower that is easily accessible and heated with consistently warm water.

Shardai told of her love for horseback riding, an activity she just recently started after much prodding from her mother. “I didn’t really think I would enjoy it,” Shardai exclaimed, “but my mother insisted I try it just once. And I just love it!” Shardai rides at Angel Heart Farm in Nolensville, a program offering equine therapy for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

When I asked Shardai about a wish list, her answer spilled out quickly.

“My wish list is one of thanks. To my friends, family, teachers, doctors, and people that know me a big THANK YOU! You have done a lot for me.”

As I was preparing to leave, Shardai’s mother Carol invited me to see her daughter’s recently decorated bedroom. With purple walls and bright blue furniture with touches of bright colors mixed with pastels, it’s a fitting room for one so full of life. As Shardai opened a small music box I had brought as a gift, she hurriedly scurried into the bedroom. I was attempting to show her how the trinket box played the tune “You are My Sunshine.”

“But, we can’t let my grandmother hear that music,” was Shardai’s earnest plea. She sings that song to me ALL the time and if she hears that music, I’ll never be able to stop her singing!”

Apparently, angels do come in all sizes, sometimes with a spunky wit and
a wisdom and strength that surpasses all understanding. The one I met last week has a golden glow, wears dangly earrings and has a loving grandmother who sometimes sings just a bit off-key.

For more information about Shardai, her medical condition and how you can join in the community’s efforts to have ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition remodel Shardai’s home, please read the following excerpt written by Jennifer Hood, School Counselor at Smyrna Middle School.

Shardai is an eighth grader at Smyrna Middle School. She is an Honor Roll student who also plays percussion in the band, volunteers as an office worker, and helps to manage the cheerleading squad. She has been seen volunteering in several activities in her school and her community; she is eager to do anything she can to help others. But, Shardai’s excellent academic performance, impressive extracurricular involvement, and servant heart are not the only characteristics that make her noticeable.

Since birth, Shardai has suffered from a rare skin disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa that creates very painful, blister-like sores over her entire body. At the age of five, Shardai was also diagnosed with Polymosytis, a muscle deterioration disorder, which aggravates her ability to manage the skin disorder. In addition, Shardai has a gum disorder that causes her gums to swell considerably and requires that she undergo gum reduction surgery on a yearly basis. Shardai’s skin disorder is to blame for the excruciating pain she must face each and every day of her life. She also must spend quite a bit of time each morning wrapping her skin in medicated wraps and gauze to protect from infection and try to allow her sores to heal. She must also undergo very painful, lengthy medical procedures on a regular basis to treat her skin.

There is no cure for Shardai’s skin disorder and pain management has become very difficult. Shardai spends several days at a time confined to a wheelchair because she is unable to walk. Shardai is unable to participate in many activities that normally developing teenagers take for granted. But, her physical condition has not quenched her spirit; she has a very optimistic outlook on life and is often found helping and encouraging her fellow students. Despite her intense pain, Shardai is very dedicated to attending school and performing to the best possible academic potential. Those who know Shardai call her an “inspiration,” and her warm smile can be “contagious.”

Shardai lives with her mother Carol and her grandmother Linda. Although both of these women have faced challenges of their own, they are wholeheartedly committed to providing the daily care that Shardai needs.

Last year, after getting to know Shardai and her family and learning more about the extensive demands of caring for her on a daily basis, two Smyrna Middle School faculty members decided to nominate Shardai and her family for Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Shardai and her family could benefit greatly from having the extra space and medical facilities that are necessary to meet Shardai’s physical needs. We need your help to make this dream a reality.

Here’s how you can help:

1) EMAIL EMHE - The application and video have been submitted to Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but we need you to help us email the show and ask them to build a house for this very deserving family. Send an email to with “Please Build a House for the Cousino Family in Smyrna, TN” in the subject line. In the email, please ask ABC to build a house for the Cousino family in Smyrna, TN. Feel free to add your own message about why you think this family is deserving. Also, if you would be willing to help build the house or to donate materials/supplies, please include that in your email as well.

2) SPREAD THE WORD - You can also help by asking your friends and family members to email the show and request the home build. Send emails to your entire family, friends, coworkers – everyone you know – and ask them to help. The more emails that are sent to the show, the greater the chance that ABC will choose the Cousino family. Please keep in mind that the show only allows one email per email address.

Thank you for taking the time to help this very deserving family!

If you would like more information or have additional questions

– please contact:

Jennifer Hood

School Counselor

Smyrna Middle School

615-904-3845 ext. 24707

1 comment:

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