Alyssa Knecht, 12,
an8 Shira Starr,
16, became good
friends at Beaumont
Beads 4 Beaumont
Amid her own illness, teen hopes to
sell beaded jewelry to help others.
Keri Guten Cohen
Story Development Editor
t's not surprising that Shira Starr,
16, turned to art to help her cope
with a rare gastrointestinal condi-
tion that has kept her in and out of
hospitals for the past year.
One look at her room in her
Farmington Hills home and you know
she's an artist. Her own work in a
variety of media adorn the walls. Her
paintings in oil and pastels are espe-
cially colorful, sensitive and striking.
And though she's missed much school
this year because of her health, the
North Farmington High School junior
usually finds a way to make it to her
art class, which she is taking as an
independent study course.
Now she's using her artistic sense for a
good cause by making glass bead brace-
lets and headbands and selling them to
raise money to buy Pillow Pets for other
children in Beaumont Children's Hospital
in Royal Oak. For the uninitiated, Pillow
Pets are small, cushy pillows shaped like
animals that are really comfy and make
for great hugging.
Shira has one on her bed that's a
bumble bee. Affix the Velcro straps
underneath and it becomes a standing,
"There's just something comforting
about them:' Shira said.
She will be selling her beads and
headbands — Beads 4 Beaumont —
at the Congregation B'nai Moshe Gift
Bazaar on Sunday, Dec. 11, at the West
Shira has been making the beaded
bracelets with her friend, Alyssa
Knecht of Monroe. Alyssa, 12, who has
bone cancer, and Shira are often in the
hospital at the same time and have
"She's awesome," Shira said. At
Thanksgiving, I said I was thankful for
Alyssa and her mom."
On Jan. 1 of this year, Shira came down
with the stomach flu. Her twin, Zach, had
it before her and recovered just fine,
but Shira says her "body went crazy"
The virus triggered an autoimmune
response that paralyzed her gastrointes-
tinal system. She was weak, in intense
pain, vomiting and had headaches.
Her parents, Ellen and Joe, took her
to the hospital on Feb. 1 for gastroin-
testinal tests. She was there a week;
afterward she began getting intrave-
nous nutrition. She has eaten very little
by mouth since then because of bad
reactions. So far, she's had 19 in-patient
hospital stays and many infections.
And she just returned from the
Cleveland Clinic where a team of doc-
tors is conferring to come up with treat-
ment. So far, the few treatments she's
tried for her rare autoimmune gastro-
intestinal dysmotility that also involves
her intestines have not worked.
Yet, Shira has a wonderful attitude.
"We live moment by moment; she
may feel and look great and then, with-
in minutes, things change,' Ellen Starr
said. "When she's feeling well enough,
she wants her life to be normal — to
go to swim meets, to see her friends at
synagogue, to do as much as she can."
The illness also has revealed who
her true friends are, Shira said. "Sam,
Jenna, Hannah — my friends from
B'nai Moshe — and my BBYO friends
are good about visiting me at home
and in the hospital. And swim team
friends have been supportive and have
included me in events, and that's nice."
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Beads on page 34