Disabled British Girl Defies Doctors To Become A Walking Miracle

Kayleigh Kirkham 25, is one amazing Brit chick from West Yorkshire who had me captivated the very first time I saw one of her youtube videos. You just look into that megawatt smile and bright blue eyes and and you can’t help but catch her infectious joy. You would never even think she was disabled. She has a strong fiery personality and takes no punches from anyone. No wonder she titled her blog “Disabled But Still Able”.
Her story is too special and inspiring not to share. I had been talking to her over twitter and facebook for the past year, and by chance she happened to be making her second ever trip to Hollywood November 2012, and I jumped and the chance to finally meet her and share her story with you all. So here goes…

Kayleigh was born with a rare disability called Diaplegic Cerebral Palsy. It is different to the other 5 types of cerebral palsy that exist. Hers affects her legs and fine motor skills. Six months after her birth, doctors in her town of Wakefield told her parents, Neil and Margaret, she would never be able to do anything, apart from lay on the floor. But her mom and dad did not like what they were told and decided they would not accept what that doctor said. Their determination was the foundation that gave Kayleigh the drive to push through negativity in the future.

What was it like growing up with your disability in school especially?
I was really lucky to have a lot of friends who constantly helped me out day to do. I’ve always had such a positive and great personality that most people who knew me never even thought about me having a disability.
In school some subjects like PE (Physical Education, i.e. Gym Class) were hard for obvious reasons with my legs.
As for the people, most of them didn’t really know how to approach me and felt uncomfortable around me! I would say Primary School (elementary school) was easy but high school had a lot more challenges. For one, there were more stairs in high school!
I remember one incident of a boy who kept bullying me and would tease me about my disability. One day I got so fed up with him that I turned around and yelled and cursed at him. It was probably not the best thing to do, but from that day on he never teased me again!
Some people in school would get jealous of me because of the special attention I needed for my disability.

Can you remember specific incidences where people made a point of treating you differently?
You know it’s funny because I felt like the reaction was worse with adults in the community. They seemed to be a lot less educated about my disease than kids in school. Also I found the adults would stare for a lot longer than kids.
I remember on a high school sports day I had chosen to participate in a shot-put event. Some kid obnoxiously said to me “You can’t do that you’re disabled!” Little did they realize my upper body, which is required for shot-put was absolutely fine. But I couldn’t resist turning around and I said to them “I’d rather have legs like min than a face like yours!”

Tell us about after school and what prompted you to get into the Special Ed industry?
After school I did an apprenticeship in Business Admin then just started working at various admin jobs to start earning money. I knew right away I was limited with job choices because of my disability. My mum works in the Special Education department at a local school and she kinda got me interested in that field.
So I eventually moved into that field myself. I now work at a place called the Special Educational Needs Assessment and Review Team. Initially it was only a 3 month trial but I have now been there 4 years and really found my passion in life.
Because of my life and my disability, I remember thinking to myself at 13 that I wanted this disability to be my advantage. I wanted to show others that being disabled wasn’t the end of the world. I realized working in the Special Needs industry, I understood it better than some, and it was my comfort zone, so it only made sense to dedicate my life to it.

Tell us about the surgeries you have had to have and how you learned to walk, after the doctors said you never would be able to?
I have had 14 surgeries altogether, all between the ages of 3-14 during my growing phase. Every time I had surgery I literally had to learn how to walk all over again. It was as if I was a baby. I was constantly in wheelchairs, using walking frames and leg splints. But it never got me down and I never got depressed about this.
One of the surgeries was a major operation, called a double Osteotomy. They literally had to break all the bones in my leg to reform them in a certain way so I could walk properly. It was SO painful! I remember that really well. I was in hospital for quite a while and missed a lot of school so I was attending the hospital school at this time.
Now every 6 months I have botox injected into the tendons in my ankles and hips. I know that sounds weird, but the botox actually relaxes the muscle and makes it easier and less painful for me to walk.

Your doctor at birth didn’t give your parents any hope for you, but that wasn’t the last negative medical professional you would encounter.
All the doctors in Wakefield, the town I live in, refused to do any surgeries on me, thinking it was not possible. So my parents, being determined as they were, looked elsewhere. We finally found a surgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, who was recommended by my physiotherapist back in Wakefield. So my parents and I went for a consultation with Dr. Smith who made it clear to us from the beginning that he would not be charging us for anything! We were shocked and blown away because not only could we not afford all the surgeries I ended up having, but this doctor genuinely cared about me and wanted to see me walk.

What were some of the ways Dr. Smith made your surgeries more bearable and comfortable for you at such a young age?
He was the one responsible for making me not afraid to go under the knife. He would come and talk to me about every surgery personally, not just my parents. One of the cool things he did was get me to pick out a colored marker from his desk, and with that he would mark on my leg each time where he was going to be doing the surgery. He actually made it fun and made me feel so comfortable. Of course I always picked pink!

New Years eve 2010 was a turning point for you, after all your surgeries and school were done. How did that time change your life?
My resolution that year was to be more brave and take chances with my life. One of those was to make a trip to Hollywood, as I had always wanted to go there but never thought I would be able to travel that far with my disability. But in August 2011 I managed to do it! Leading up to the trip I had tweeted Paula Abdul who I was a huge fan of since her American Idol days and shared my story with her. One of her best friends Donny Demers, who is also disabled, got in touch with me and after hearing I too had a disability, helped me out with advice on how to travel and what I would need here.
While I was in Hollywood for the very first time, I got to meet Paula’s friend Donny, who I had now become friends with. He was really sweet. And he even arranged a surprise meeting with Paula! One day we were at Starbucks with Donny, and she walked around the corner and I went white! I couldn’t believe she was actually here in front of me coming to meet me! I was so excited to finally get that Hollywood moment I had always dreamed of. Paula since then had sent me a few messages encouraging me to share my story, and that really inspired me to do something else with my life.

What was it that she inspired you to do?
I wanted to share my story but initially didn’t know how. I eventually came to the conclusion I had to start a blog about my disability and share it with the public. I figured, I’ve got nothing to lose and I am not ashamed of who I am. I called it ‘Disabled but Still Able’. I saw the importance of sharing my story and my positive outlook, because I am aware there are many people with disabilities out there who suffer from depression and anxiety. Once I started the blog, my goal became clear: I wanted to become an motivational speaker for others with any disability in general, and show them that no matter who you are and what condition you’ve got, you can achieve anything if you believe in yourself. That’s the key. If you don’t start with this, how can anyone else believe in you?

So you started your blog and already you have received some pretty awesome feedback! What was one of the standouts?
A lady in Brazil read my blog and got in contact with me! She is a dentist who has a 28 year old patient that needs to be carried everywhere by his father. After reading my story she shared it with her patient and told me how it really encouraged and blessed him. And that was on twitter.
My local newspaper heard about my story as it started to gain momentum, and they did an article on me called “I wouldn’t change for the world”. I realized what the power of sharing a story on a blog like this could do and it spurred me onwards.
What some people may not realize is that in the UK, especially where I’m from, not many people are aware or involved in blogging. But coming to a place like Hollywood where a lot of people do it gave me a lot more confidence to start one. I was able to get a lot of advice and help from people there that I took home with me before starting ‘Disabled but still Able’.

What advice do you have for other with disabilities?
Always believe in yourself. Whatever goal you set yourself, don’t start thinking “I can’t do that” just break it down into small steps so you don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s like this; when I was traveling to Hollywood for the first time there was a lot I had to go through just to get there physically. So I broke down the journey into small manageable steps so that I could mentally prepare: Getting from Yorkshire to London, then getting to a hotel. Getting from the hotel to the train, then the train to Heathrow airport. At the airport finding the check-in counter, the security check-point, then the departures lounge. You get the idea.

So what is next for Kayleigh Kirkham, motivational speaker and conquerer of Diaplegic Cerebral Palsy?
I have been asked to speak in front of a girl scouts troop in Yorkshire, so they can earn their ‘Disability Awareness’ badge. I wanted to talk to them about it in an easy and fun way they could understand. I decided on talking to them about my car, which is rigged differently from other cars. All the controls are on the steering while, just like a race car!
This will be my first motivational talk in front of others and I am excited for this to lead to more opportunities!

What do you want to say to people out there who have misconceptions about disabilities or how to treat people who have them?
It’s sad that if you are disabled, people judge you on what you can’t do first. I want to use my motivational speaking to switch their thinking around the other way: what they can do first. Having a disability shouldn’t define a person. Olympic Gold medalist and Figure Skater Scott Hamilton said a great quote which has stuck with me ever since I heard it: “The worst disability in the world is a bad attitude.”

What advice would you give to others who have a disability and are struggling with how to come to terms with it and be ok with who they are?
Ask yourself, is this disability going to rule your life or are you going to use it to your advantage? The hand you’ve been dealt with in life is the hand you are dealt. Tough! Deal with it and move on! If I didn’t have my disability I wouldn’t be who I am today.

When I asked if she would ever want to change to be able bodied she says
“No! I am so proud of who I am and wouldn’t change for anyone.”

 

11 Comments

  1. Hi ladies!! BRILLIANT article about a VERY special young lady ~ Kayleigh you continue to amaze and inspire me, I am PROUD to call you my friend ~ Suzy Hooper

  2. Barbara Stout says:

    Your amazing! Thank you and may God bless you!

  3. Mary Scotcher says:

    very good Kayleigh love Mary xxx

  4. Claire Ann says:

    kayleigh … you are amazing hon … your story is so inspiring – when I chat to you on twitter I never think of u as having a disability, you are an amazing person and what u are doing reflects that 🙂 xoxo

  5. Pingback: Paraplegic Woman Defies Doctors To Complete London Marathon On Legs!

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