herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Attacked and left almost blind - how Kayleigh sang through bullying trauma

STREET-attack survivor Kayleigh Cullinane -- who lost 90pc of the sight in one eye -- is now winning the battle to make a name for herself in the music industry.

Kayleigh's retina became detached after a vicious, unprovoked attack in a south Dublin suburb.

The teen was kicked, beaten and bitten by another girl in Terenure close to two years ago and the entire episode was filmed on mobile phones.

Kayleigh (16) suffered horrific emotional trauma and it wasn't until months later that doctors uncovered the irreparable damage to her eye.

During this time, Kayleigh turned to music to help her to overcome her tormentors.

She locked herself in her room and listened to her iPod, slowly training her own voice.

"She was walking to her friend's house to get her pyjamas as they were having a sleepover," Kayleigh's mum Kathy told the Herald.

"The gang started taunting her and then this one girl attacked her."

At first there was no symptom with the detached retina.

"She noticed some flashing lights and some dots. But unfortunately this is also a sign of stress," her mum explained.

"I was saying to her to relax. She had just got over a serious illness, so I thought maybe it was a side effect of some of the medication she was on."

Her mum brought her to an optician when she began to complain about deteriorating sight.

"They identified that her retina had detached and said to take her straight down to hospital," she said.

"With the detached retina you need to get it within 24 hours or three days maximum. You start losing your vision but it is so gradual that you don't notice it.

"It is 90pc gone. It was very difficult to claw anything back from that."

After the attack, Kayleigh withdrew from friends and family.

"She didn't want to be in the real world. She put her earphones on and stayed in her room for months on end," Kathy said.

"Then when she asked if she could sing us a song. I was delighted. It was the first thing she took an interest in.







Birthday

"So we set up the mic in the sitting room and she sang. I was stunned. I couldn't believe that voice came out of her.

"She hadn't any voice before that -- like any child she could sing, but nothing like this."

Her parents organised for a special birthday treat to record a song and had a makeover done with professional photographs.

Kayleigh said that this was the first time she realised she knew what she had to do.

"I always wanted to be a singer. I have always loved music. But I never really had the voice or the confidence," she told the Herald.

Her mum organised a video to send to family and friends but it wasn't long before this made its way on to YouTube.

Suddenly Kayleigh received support from right around the world, including Don Mescall, Sharon Corr's confidant on The Voice, who has penned a song for her.

"I have recorded two songs already," Kayleigh said.

"Ideally I would like to record an album. But it costs €2,500 per song, so I have been saving up for each song.

"I really just want to highlight bullying. I would love to record songs with other artists and highlight bullying to stand up and say 'it isn't right'."

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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