Honorary Hornet: Local young man is an inspiration to community

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 4, 2015

honorary member: From left, Tanny Smith smiles at Zarian Phlegm after he received a signed football from Poplarville football player Taylor Wells during the Hornet’s Oct. 23 game.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

honorary member: From left, Tanny Smith smiles at Zarian Phlegm after he received a signed football from Poplarville football player Taylor Wells during the Hornet’s Oct. 23 game.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

During the Oct. 23 Poplarville High School football game, the Hornets gained a new player, 9-year old Zarian, “Z,” Phlegm.
A big grin spread across the young man’s face as Hornets’ guard Taylor Wells presented Zarian with a jersey and a football signed by the entire team. He was also named an honorary team member.
One of the first things people might notice about Zarian, besides his infectious smile, is the fact that the young man is confined to a wheelchair. He was born with spina bifida, a birth defect characterized by the improper development of his spine.
Zarian is the son of Poplarville natives, Shantel and Derwin. He also has two sisters, Reagan and Genesis.
On Feb. 18, 2006, Shantel found out her son was born with a large opening in his back. He spent the first four months of his life in the University of Mississippi’s Medical Center Pediatric ICU in Jackson.
Since then, he’s been hospitalized numerous times and undergone 42 surgeries to correct some of his conditions, his mother said. He also suffers from thoracic insufficient syndrome, partial epilepsy, scoliosis and lower body paralysis.
He also has hydracephus or fluid on the brain, she said. A shunt was implanted to pull excessive fluids away from his brain. Zarian also does not have a large intestine, which causes his stomach to swell. Zarian’s other surgical procedures include spina bifida repairs, bladder surgery, a colostomy bag, a vascastomy to help him use the restroom, numerous surgeries for spinal implants and he has had rods placed in his back to make up for the parts of his spine he is missing, Shantel said.
In March, Zarian will undergo a spine fusion.
“The spinal adjustments are not helping,” Shantel said. “The doctors are going to take implants and make him a spine. However, this will stop his height growth. This will also help his scoliosis. They still say he won’t walk, but God can do anything. In the beginning, they told me he would never sit up or talk either.”
Not only does he do both, but Zarian also attends fourth grade at Poplarville’s Upper Elementary special needs class.
Shantel said her son is very smart, prays and is always willing to do whatever it takes.
“He’s very happy and friendly,” Shantel said. “He’s a people person, he doesn’t meet a stranger. He’s very loved in Pearl River County.”
At 24-years-old, when she found out about her son’s condition, Shantel thought it is was the end of her world and wondered how she would take care of him. However, she said she ended up being the best mother and even impressed herself. Sometimes she finds herself stressed, but through prayer, she is able to get through the tough times.
“He changed my life, saved my marriage and brought our family together,” she said. “He saved and strengthened my faith in God. I want him to have the best and someday, I wish him to walk. I do what I can to be his mother, even if my husband and I have to tote him around when he’s 20-years-old, we will do it.”
Zarian is a big fan of not only of the Poplarville football team, but also the University of Alabama. He enjoys sitting on the sidelines and cheering on Poplarville’s pee-wee football team, which also made him an honorary teammate, Shantel said.
The kids love and cherish him, Shantel said. The schools treat him well and he is not judged by his disability, she said.
A typical day for Zarian begins with a bath. He uses an aide to pull himself up and his mother helps groom and dress him. He takes four different medications for his bladder, kidneys and seizures, Shantel said. Each week he attends physical, speech and occupational therapy sessions.
However, Shantel said she lets Zarian do as much as he can for himself, like feeding and dressing his upper body. He also helps fold laundry and vacuum.
Zarian said he likes school and doing his homework, but some of his favorite activities are watching cartoons, football and sitting in his chair playing with his toy cars. He also said he enjoys riding horses during horse therapy.
His sisters, who are 12 and 3, help him clean his room, which is full of lots of cars, he said. He also loves his dog, Diamond.
Twelve-year-old Reagan said her brother is funny and easy to talk to.
Zarian said he loves his football teams so much it felt good to be honored at the Hornets’ game.
“I want to be a man when I grow up,” he said. “I also want to cut hair with clippers. I think about playing and running on the football field one day and I’m ready to make that happen. I also love my family with all my heart.”

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