The Kaylee Stiffler Story
Kaylee Stiffler is 16.
She’s had 14 surgeries in the past five years, and there isn’t an end in sight for surgeries and procedures.
Kaylee, a sweet, caring, clever, down to earth teenager, was born with congenital nevus, which is essentially a mole or birthmark that can be on any part of the body. Kaylee’s is on her face, covering her cheek, nose, and eye. Kaylee’s mom, Samantha, worried about her daughter getting bullied, but she never saw the birthmark, only saw her daughter.
4 years ago, it started growing, changing, and bleeding, and it impacted her eyesight.
They were told it would take 3 surgeries to remove it and to reconstruct affected areas.
Each and every surgery, though, did not go as planned. For both of them, it’s a blur to recall, but each time, something went wrong, and 3 surgeries turned into 13. After all of these surgeries, with unforeseen complications, set-backs, disappointments, requiring more surgeries, more tests, both Kaylee and her mother stayed focused and determined.
Through all of this, Kaylee has been a brave, smiling, wise beyond her years young woman.
The complications did not end. When an infection from one of her surgeries required an MRI, the doctors discovered she had a cyst on her brain. Doctors believed the cyst was not inherently problematic. However, Kaylee developed symptoms, headaches, and yet they were told it was all a matter of stress, that the cyst was not a problem. Samantha and Kaylee sought doctors’ help, and were told over and over that it wasn’t an issue.
But it was. They felt they were not heard at all until their doctor at Children’s hospital put all of the pieces together.
Then, they got the call that the cyst had grown, In her heart and mind, Kaylee knew they would get this news. Her first concern was for her mother. Samantha’s first concern was for Kaylee. The thought of brain surgery was terrifying, but Kaylee’s response was: “We got this.”
During all of this, circumstances led the family to move, and Kaylee changed schools three times during her middle school years. After her first round of surgeries to remove the nevus, during the summer before her 8th grade year, she entered a new school, Longs Peak Middle school. She was unknown to students or staff, and she was entering amidst the first few of many facial reconstruction surgeries. Kaylee made friends easily, and she ignored the bullies who made fun of her, knowing “that was their problem.”
Kaylee has an amazing group of friends and a large and supportive family. Kaylee is 16. Then, there is her 14 year old brother, Kaiden, her sister Madison, 11, and her little brother Wyatt, who is 4. She has an older sister, Kiara, who has been a tremendous support for her.
Samantha credits the move to St. Vrain Schools as the best balm to their lives. Kaylee’s new friends were true and deep, and she kept those friendships as she entered Longmont High School.
Staff and students have supported her, and she has a network of support and care every day at LHS. Because she has developed double vision from the brain surgery, everyone is concerned with her movements up and down the stairs of LHS and of her trying to read with double vision. Kaylee scoffs at this. She also brushes aside people’s concerns. She returned to school months before doctors and others thought best. Kaylee will not be held down.
Throughout all of this, for her entire life, Kaylee is a smiling, positive, upbeat person. Every single picture of her, she radiates a beautiful smile. And throughout all of her circumstances, and her uncertain future, when asked what she wants for her future, she quickly answers that she wants to pursue a singing career, perhaps get on American Idol or America’s Got Talent. Then, she talks about her other ideas: a lawyer, a special educatin instructor, interested in tourettes and other conditions to help. And she’s back to music, her passion.
Kaylee and Samantha rely on each other, buoy each other, give each other strength. But as any normal teen would do, of course, Kaylee sought solace and comfort in her favorite band, “Why Don’t We.”
Kaylee wants to help others. Always. When we asked her what brings her strength, she immediately responded that she wants to help others. She wants to always put others before herself. “There are others, children, who struggle far worse than I do.”
As is perfectly plain, in spending even a few minutes with 16 year old Kaylee, she is a very normal teenager. It’s just that she’s also extraordinary.
We are proud to support Kaylee Stiffler as the 2020 Happy Smackah. We thank you for your help and support in any way that you are capable – by participating in our Happy Smackah 5k Fun Run on May 9th, through a General donation, or by Volunteering.