We always knew our daughter Kendall was going be a performer of some sort. She entertained people in our small town by putting on shows on our front porch when she was only three or four. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and beautiful, she sang like a little angel and mesmerized everyone.
When Kendall was five, we began to notice that she was blinking a lot and clearing her throat frequently. We had her tested for allergies, but the doctor said she wasn’t allergic to anything at all. After the problem worsened, we took her to our local children’s hospital where she was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome.
It was pretty devastating because other children constantly made fun of her, and sadly, even a teacher teased her. When the tics were especially bad, Kendall had to wear a neck brace. She only had one or two friends, but that was okay because they were — and continue to be — real, the kind who stick by her, no matter what. Through all this, Kendall continued to sing and entertain. Remarkably, her tics disappeared when she sang.
We took our daughter from doctor to doctor, but all they did was give her medication that just made it worse, so we decided to go the natural route. Through chiropractic therapy, changes in her diet, and other natural treatments, the tics gradually lessened .
In 2005 when Kendall was sixteen, we thought she was pretty much out of the woods — or at least heading in that direction. However, as if Tourette’s Syndrome wasn’t enough for a beautiful young girl to deal with, a freak accident happened .
At a birthday party, Kendall hopped on a friend for a piggyback ride. He bent lower than she expected, and she jumped higher than he expected. Kendall flew over his back and landed on the cement floor — on her neck. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she spent the next week, paralyzed from the neck down. Ironically, her biggest concern wasn’t whether she would walk again, but whether she would be able to audition for American Idol.
Doctors said Kendall had central cord syndrome. The pain was excruciating and required morphine to control it. Sometimes it was so unbearable she had to bite down on a toothbrush to take her mind off it. As the days dragged on, feeling returned to her left side, but she was still paralyzed on the right. We didn’t know for sure how much of her movement would ever come back.
I believe Kendall wanted the American Idol audition so much that she willed herself to move again. One of her friends brought a microphone to the hospital and put it on her bed. Every day, Kendall tried hard to pick it up with her right hand. It was more important for her to pick up that mic than a spoon or fork.
Sometimes we all cried because of the pain we witnessed. But on the day Kendall walked into the stadium to audition for American Idol — a mere three months after her accident — we cried tears of joy. And our tears turned into shouts when she was given a golden ticket to Hollywood.
As a parent, you always think your child is the best ever — that’s just what parents do. But after seeing Kendall perform, I know she’s one of the best, even though she didn’t make it into the Top 24.
Kendall is eighteen now, living every day to its fullest. She’s recorded a CD with some of John Mellencamp’s band members. She’s also on CMT’s Music City Madness for an original song and video, and is having some good success. I’m absolutely sure she’s going to make it big some day. Kendall just puts it all in God’s hands.
When she was a little girl trying hard to be strong, she looked up at me, her big eyes brimming with tears, and asked me why she had to have Tourette’s Syndrome. My heart ached to make the world right for my child. But I looked right back at her and told her the truth as I see it.
“Kendall, God gave you a pure heart, an angelic voice, a strong mind, and a beautiful presence. With all of that, he had to make it fair for everyone else.