Gotta’ Run: No limits with cerebral palsy, Kayla Sechler

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

I first met Kayla Sechler when we covered her sister Kassidy’s battle with heart disease. Kayla has her own impressive story about how she approaches life. Kayla has cerebral palsy, yet she’s taking life by the horns and charging forward.

Back before COVID, I was able to see a mid-40s female teacher with full-blown cerebral palsy train for a year to finish her 5K. It remains the most moving experience related to running that I have ever witnessed when she crossed the finish line. Kayla is made of the same mold and just as inspiring as she committed to do the Love Thy Neighbor 5K last March 16.   

Cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality in the brain that happens before, during or after birth. Kayla was diagnosed at 18 months old with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy. This form of cerebral palsy affects the muscle tone and spasticity of the muscles. Luckily for Kayla, it only affects her legs. Kayla said, “The form of CP I have affects the spasticity of my muscles, meaning that my brain is constantly sending signals to my leg muscles to continuously contract, causing stiffness.”

The reason Kayla chose to participate in this 5K was to benefit her sister, while also completing a post-surgical goal to complete a 5K that she set back in January 2022 after her own big procedure. Doctors straightened her legs by breaking both femurs and her left tibia, along with an arch reconstruction on the left foot, tendon lengthening in both legs and a split tendon transfer in the right foot. After surgery she had two metal rods, 18 screws and two metal plates to hold her bones together as they healed. The eventual removal of the screws and plates helped with pain and her ability to walk.

Kayla described her 5K effort, “I felt great until about the mile and a half mark. My legs started getting a little shaky and I started feeling tired. I think what kept me going the most was having my former teacher, Ashley Lanning, by my side through the entire race. The final mile was the hardest for me as I was worn out. Having my sister, Kas, finish the race with me was super special and something I will never forget.”

To offset the effects of CP, Kayla uses constant stretching and moving to keep her muscles as active as possible so that they don’t tighten up to the point where she is unable to walk without assistance or wheelchair bound.

Kayla’s calendar is full. She said, “I am a leader for Young Life of Rowan County, a program for high schoolers to come together and worship with one another. I am also a leader of a group called Circle of Friends for those with intellectual and physical disabilities at First Baptist Church in Salisbury. I volunteered at Special Olympics during the past year and have been a volunteer for Vacation Bible School at First Reformed Church in Landis.”

While crediting her parents, Kayla said, “They have never failed to make sure I had everything I needed, whether it was seeing the best doctors or putting food on the table, my parents do absolutely everything in their power to provide for both my sister and me. At the age of four, I became a big sister, and I have to say that has been the biggest blessing in my life. We may not always agree with one another but with everything we have both gone through, she remains by my side through it all.”

A 21-year-old junior at Catawba College majoring in sports management, Kayla hopes to eventually complete her master’s degree. In just a few short weeks, she begins an internship with the Winston-Salem Dash, a minor league affiliate to the Chicago White Sox. At Catawba, she does data analysis for the baseball team, and in the fall she begins volunteering her time with the football team as a football operations student manager.

Kayla said, “I have many goals, but my biggest dream for as long as I can remember is working in the world of sports and being the gateway for other women with disabilities who want to do the same. After watching countless hours of sporting events, ranging from football to baseball, with a little bit of collegiate basketball and cheering on my sister in her many sporting events, I love being in the atmosphere of sports.”

And she added, “I am planning to do another 5K sometime in November that benefits Shriners Children’s Hospital-Greenville in South Carolina.”

Kayla is a winner and a success in the making in all her endeavors.

A short update on Kassidy includes a recent hospital stay to change heart medications that can only be used short term. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated for both girls and their family.