V. Kyle Tyson has been dancing since she was 3 years old. The Broken Arrow High School junior says it is her passion. As a part of Oklahoma Performing Arts, founded by her mother Laura Norman Tyson, the teen has been performing and competing in dance almost all of her life.
Last month, she was able to perform in the Youth America Grand Prix in Los Angeles and earned the Inspiration Award. It is hard to believe six months ago, Kyle was paralyzed.
About three years ago, Kyle began having back pains.
“I wasn't sure if it was a pinched nerve or something, so I just kept dancing,” Kyle recalled. “But I began to notice the pain was limiting me from bending and tumbling like I was before.”
The back issues escalated one September day in 2011 when Kyle collapsed in the bathroom at school. Within hours, the teen was paralyzed and was struggling to breathe.
“I had ascending and descending paralysis, which paralyzed me from the hips down,” she said.
She spent several months in and out of the hospital. During that time, her mother says Kyle continued to perform with OPA.
“We felt a real strong need to figure out how do we incorporate her back in to (dance) even though she was not doing what she was doing before,” Laura said. “We realized Kyle cannot be the only child, so how do we develop a program that is for the physically disabled, but not cognitively impaired? How do we allow them them freedom to create and develop? 'Emerge' was birthed out of Kyle's situation.”
Despite the paraplegia, Kyle participated in several productions. Laura said they used costume design to incorporate her wheelchair in the performance, and at times, the other dancers would even lift her from one place to another.
“It was an emotional time for the whole school,” Laura said.
In November of last year, Kyle visited Cook Children's Hospital for a baclofen procedure. Following the operation, Kyle said she was able to move her back for the first time in three years. But the results only lasted five hours.
After a number of tests, the results lasted longer and longer each time. Today, Kyle is on oral baclofen, which allow Kyle to be able to walk and also dance.
“She started out hanging on to the bar and doing a few unaided things, and then she was able to do a few more things with the use of the walker and wheelchair, and it just sort of blossomed from there,” Laura said.
Kyle has a working diagnosis of transverse myelitis with organ damage and incomplete paraplegia. She says the hardest part is the fact that she “looks normal.” But although she can walk and dance, her diagnosis brings back and shoulder spasms, which she said can be uncontrollable and very painful.
Nonetheless, Kyle said she has learned to push pass the pain in order to do what she loves.
“I have been dancing my whole life so I am going to fake it to make it. I am going to push through the pain, because it is something that I love. I want to do this and I am going to keep doing it.”
Kyle no longer solely depends on the wheelchair to walk and move but does rely on the wheelchair and walker to dance.
“The way that I am able to portray my story and tell what I am feeling and show the movement of the dance... I have to use the walker and the chair and the floor. With the chair and the walker, I am able to express things that other dancers can do that I am not able to do anymore.”
In February, Kyle competed in the Youth America Grand Prix and became the first person to ever perform with the use of a wheelchair. Kyle will perform again with OPA April 6 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
Her recovery was a quick one, thanks to physical therapy and dance, but doctors say Kyle has progressed as much as she is going to for now. But Kyle says she wants to use what she can do to help others through the challenges they may be facing.
“Where I am at now, my legs and back will get stronger, and this is where I will continue to be,” she said. “but what I wanted to do since I was little was to inspire people to just let go and live life. With my illness, I feel that hopefully I have inspired people.”
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