'Things can get better if you stay strong'
IT has been quite a journey for schoolgirl-cum-singing-sensation Kayleigh Cullinan since an unprovoked attack by teen bullies left her with permanent eye damage.
As the the 17-year-old continues on her road to recovery she is devoting her energies to helping others deal with bullying.
The young Dubliner, who lives off Kimmage Road West, contacted the Irish Independent to lend her support to the Stop Cyberbullies campaign.
Keen to return to school to finish her education and with an album recording on the way, Kayleigh can be confident about her own future.
In the meantime she will be busy. "I want to highlight the effects of bullying and, more importantly, let victims know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and things only get better if you can stay strong."
Kayleigh is also in touch with the Teen Aware group, which organises an annual concert to raise awareness about mental health issues among teenagers.
After the attack, in June 2010, Kayleigh languished for months in her bedroom, initially dealing with the emotional pain of an assault by a girl who had previously taunted her by text.
Kayleigh suffered a detached retina. She has undergone surgery four times but has lost most of he vision in her right eye. However, she continues to visit the medical specialists.
But, in the midst of all that trauma, a remarkable thing happened.
For long periods, Kayleigh had to spend 23 hours a day lying with her head face down in a pillow, while her retina, secured with a band which had been sewn around her eye, was healing.
Her only entertainment was her iPod, and as Kayleigh sang along with it, her remarkable voice emerged.
"I always wanting to sing, but I genuinely didn't have a voice before that," she said.
Kayleigh has caused a storm with her recording of Sarah Brightman's 'Nella Fantasia' and has already performed publicly.
She now counts Bressie as a friend, and is to record an album, with songs penned by Don Mescall, including one called 'Building A Bridge', about moving on from an experience such as she has endured.
Although Kayleigh wants to do her Leaving Certificate, a return to school is not an option at the moment because of the difficulty she has reading and concentrating.