Saira rubbed the soft cushions and plush armchairs; she’d never been in such a big store in her life. Each floor was dedicated to a different room – kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, playroom. She held her grandmother’s hand and dragged her up and down escalators. She wanted the perfect pink room after spending so many months looking at the same white hospital walls. She jumped on the princess-style bed and used her father for balance. Then Shaquille appeared.
Cyrus Sanders was a happy, energetic five-year-old from Atlanta. Her days were filled with wonder and joy, and her best friend, Logan, only five and six. Zaira and Logan were inseparable; they’d meet every morning on their walk to the bus stop. Logan never stopped talking; Saira would raise him to the lollipop lady just so he’d stop talking for a few minutes. But their innocent youth was destined for a mishap.
Saira always loved dogs; if she had to pick a favorite, it would be the Dalmatian. They reminded her of ponies; every time she passed one, she’d have to stop and talk to their owner. Some bred puppies, most didn’t, but she always enquired about prices to report back to her father Willy. He knew of her obsession ever since watching “101 Dalmatians.” Unfortunately, they didn’t have the room or the means to support a large, growing dog. Saira understood this; she was beyond her years and noticed her family’s struggle.
Little did they know, their struggles had just begun. Cyrus’ day started like any other. She had her cereal for breakfast and brushed her teeth while her father brushed her hair. He packed her lunch in her bag and gave her a goodbye kiss as they grouped outside. Logan waited nearby, by their gate; he waited to tell a new story. As she sprinted down the steps, they noticed some sinister figures.
“My cousin Brianna said the dog, the dog is coming to bite us!” And then everybody started running, Cyrus retold her ordeal. “I tried to hold Brianna, but I was too slow, and then the dogs made me fall on the street, and then they bit me on my ear.” She then called for help as the dogs continued to hold her down. “I couldn’t open my eyes because my eyes were shut because the dogs bit me all around, and blood started coming out, then everything went black.”
Three dogs on the loose were enticed by the group of young fleeing children. Logan and Saira sustained serious injuries. Saira woke up later in the day in a confused state; her entire body burned, tubes and wires spun from her like a web, and she spent the following weeks in intensive care. She didn’t have the energy to chew or swallow, but Logan wasn’t as lucky as Saira.
Due to Logan’s injuries, he was too much for the small boy to endure. News of the tragedy spread, raising awareness of the dangers of unleashed canines. It reached everyone across the world, young and old, dog lovers, and dog haters. But news of Saira’s plight unexpectedly touched one American household name.
Shaquille O’Neal was an NBA sensation; the friendly giant’s undeniable athletic ability gained him the respect and title of one of the greatest basketball players in history. At 2.1 meters tall and over 330 pounds, Shaq is still one of the tallest and largest to ever grace an NBA court. His career spanned across six teams in 19 years, and his personality and wit made him all the more loved. But he never forgot what was important in life.
Shaq always focused on the most important part of life – family. With four children with his former wife Shani Nelson and another son from a previous relationship, Shaq is no stranger to the unconditional love that comes with having a child. When Shaq’s daughter told him of Saira and Logan’s nightmare, he couldn’t help but reach out to their families.
Shaq couldn’t bring back Logan or help lessen Saira’s scars, but he could help lighten their family’s financial struggles. When Rooms to Go of Atlanta invited the Williams to their store, they didn’t know what to expect. Upon arriving, they were told to have a look around and pick out whatever they wanted. But when Shaq stepped out from behind a wardrobe in the bedroom section, Saira’s legs went weak, and her father couldn’t contain his own tears.
Shaq told the Williams to pick out whatever they wanted because the bill was on him. They couldn’t believe his generosity. Shaq’s actions have astounded many, but it’s not the first time he’s gone above and beyond. He helped pay for the funeral of George Mikan, a friend who had a major influence in starting his basketball career, and he was a notorious big tipper, once giving a hundred dollars to a bellhop just for helping him get to McDonald’s.
But it wasn’t Willie’s first time speaking to Shaq; the Williams revealed that Shaq had been in contact ever since the attack. The star was obviously affected by the family’s ordeal, and on their first meeting, Saira couldn’t help but show her adoration. The still healing petite girl looked like a doll in the arms of Shaq. After their encounter, her grandmother explained that Saira was doing awesome; she’s got her same spirit.
A room makeover only distracted Saira for so long. Saira asked for Logan during her recovery, but the family avoided telling her the truth until she finally left the hospital. She misses him, playing with him, and talking to him. Her grandmother shared Saira’s emotions, although grieving the loss of her friend. Cyrus managed to surpass all expectations; her father couldn’t believe his daughter’s strength, it was unbelievable, especially how quickly she started feeling well, even when she was in bad condition, she was smiling and playing like she is now, her father shared.
Her delight, and although her injuries left her in critical condition, doctors have described her recovery as miraculous. After nine surgeries, countless setbacks, and numerous scares, Saira has managed to pull through. But there’s a worrying aspect to this story.
Saira was left fighting for her life after actively trying to avoid an unleashed dog. After a long fight, she’s finally getting back to her old life of school and fun, but Logan wasn’t as lucky. Their accident has raised awareness of the importance of dog control. Although Saira has lost her best friend, she believes him to be an angel watching over her.