Monday 19 February 2018

'Her leg was like a little twig' – Brave Kayla (7) learns to walk again after having both legs amputated

Kayla McGaley (7) after having her prosthesis fitted on Monday
Kayla McGaley (7) after having her prosthesis fitted on Monday
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The mother of a seven-year-old girl who has had both her legs amputated says she wishes she had half her daughter’s courage.

Kayla McGaley was just thirteen months old when she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis while on a family holiday in Alicante in 2010.

L-R Kirsten, Deirdre, Kayla and her brother Stephen (27)
L-R Kirsten, Deirdre, Kayla and her brother Stephen (27)

On Monday, the “always smiling” girl from Castleisland, Co Kerry had her second prosthesis fitted and is now learning to walk again.

Due to being unable to overcome a difficult battle with septicaemia, Kayla had to have her right leg removed in 2012. 

A family friend had photoshopped Kayla's face into a picture of Disney character, ‘Brave’.
A family friend had photoshopped Kayla's face into a picture of Disney character, ‘Brave’.

In August this year, after years of trying to adjust and strengthen her left leg, she made the decision to have it amputated.

Her mother Deirdre says it was “like a little twig,” and that Kayla wanted to have it removed so she could be “done with the pain”.

Twins Kayla and Kirsten
Twins Kayla and Kirsten

A bit hesitant about trying to walk with two prosthesis legs, Deirdre decided to take to Facebook to share Kayla’s story so the kind and encouraging comments could spur her on.

“The reaction has been phenomenal. I was reading out the comments to her and she was smiling and laughing.

“She went smiling into the surgery, she is so strong and brave,” Deirdre told

“She doesn’t complain. There is none of this ‘oh, poor me’ going on with her. I mean, it is all she knows. She was only thirteen months old when she got the meningitis. It is amazing how positive a child can be when they don’t know any different. I wish I had half her courage,” she said.

When Kayla awoke from her surgery, a family friend had photoshopped her face into a picture of Disney character, ‘Brave’.

“She absolutely loved it, she didn’t realise at first it was her face and couldn’t stop smiling when she did,” Deirdre beamed.

When Kayla fell ill in Alicante, doctors originally thought it was a heat rash. After  realising she had contracted the worst form of meningitis, she spent six weeks in intensive care and was airlifted to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

All the skin had to be removed from Kayla’s legs in an attempt to save them, and she was in and out of hospital receiving skin graphs between 2010 and 2012.

She is recovering well from her recent surgery and is now learning to adapt to her new legs.

“She’s back at school now, where she has a Special Needs Assistant who helps bring her around in a wheelchair. She is the centre of attention ever since she got back. They were used to seeing her with one leg, and now the kids are treating her like a little celebrity.

“She takes no heed girl, she is full of gab like,” Deirdre laughed.

Kayla may seem like one-of-a-kind, but she has a twin sister Kirsten who has been extra supportive of her since the surgery in August.

“Kirsten carries her school bag for her in the mornings and has been so good. It’s gas because the two of them are like chalk and cheese. Kirsten is a little tom boy who wouldn’t care what she has on her, whereas Kayla would go around wearing something from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” she said.

Slowly but surely, she is building up the courage to walk again, and will be out trick-or-treating with her twin sister on Halloween night.

“I think we are going to Ballybunion too, there is a tunnel of terror. It’ll probably frighten the life out of them.

“Kayla has this wild child costume planned and Kirsten is going to be a black ninja, again, chalk and cheese!”

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