Woman bullied so severely she lost sight in one eye; what she becomes seven years later is 10 times better than revenge

She was confined to a bed for months, unable to do anything, except the one thing that's changed everything.

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  • "Whaley Kayleigh" and "fat girl" were just two of the disturbing nicknames Kayleigh Cullinan's classmates had given her. She was bullied throughout high school, but one night in July 2010 the bullies went too far.

  • Kayleigh was walking to a friend's house when she was brutally attacked. She was punched, spat on and bitten by one of her childhood friends as a group of kids stood by, watching and filming the attack. Just as her mother had taught her, Kayleigh ignored them and kept walking, thinking they would back off.

  • For a moment, Kayleigh thought her tactic had worked. Then, all of a sudden, she was yanked by her ponytail and punched right under her eye.

  • When Kayleigh tried to get away, the girl bit her on the arm. The assault was posted on the internet and went viral, and Kayleigh was left both physically and emotionally wounded.

  • The bullies felt no remorse

  • Kayleigh's mother, Kathy Cullinan, contacted the bully's parents to get the other side to the story. Their answer was that Kayleigh's bully "just flipped."

  • Kayleigh was devastated. "I've been nothing but a friend to her," she said. "I couldn't wrap my head around it."

  • Unfortunately the taunting didn't stop.

  • "There's absolutely no remorse," she said. An apology either in person or even in an anonymous card would have made all the difference, Kathy said.

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  • Kayleigh's emotional wounds were deep, but her physical wounds were deeper

  • Kayleigh was terrified to leave the house. Most of the time she would stay in her room. If she had to go out, Kayleigh would only do what she had to do and then immediately retreat to the safety of her bedroom.

  • "It was the only place that was mine, and that nobody could get me," Kayleigh said.

  • Kathy was more concerned about the emotional damage rather than the physical wounds.

  • "I figured the bruises would heal up," she said.

  • Bruises do heal, but Kayleigh's injuries were more than skin deep.

  • About 10 months after the assault, doctors discovered that Kayleigh's retina was detached. She had gradually been going blind all that time.

  • Kayleigh underwent surgery. The recovery mandated that she lie completely still in the same position for six weeks.

  • Kayleigh, this evening, just after her latest (fifth) operation on her detached retina. She has to remain in this...

    Posted by Howard Myers on Friday, February 8, 2013
  • She was only allowed five minutes every hour to get up, stretch and use the bathroom, which Kathy said was strictly set on a clock.

  • Unfortunately, the surgery failed and Kayleigh had to go back again for a second operation and another six weeks of immovable bed rest.

  • Confined to a bed for months, she wasn't allowed to do anything, including reading or watching TV. To keep herself from going insane, she listened to her iPod nonstop, she told reporters. Music kept her going during this difficult time.

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  • The second surgery was successful and Kayleigh was finally allowed out of bed. Her retina was healing, but she will never regain the 90 percent of sight she lost. She is permanently blind in her right eye.

  • She discovered her new talent

  • When Kayleigh asked to sing for family after she was taken off bed rest, her mother happily agreed. She was thrilled her daughter was showing an interest in something. Kathy set up a microphone in their home and her family sat on the couch to listen. They were blown away.

  • Apparently, months of singing along to music on her iPod unleashed a talent Kayleigh and her family didn't even know she had.

  • Kayleigh had always loved singing but she admitted she never felt she had a good singing voice. When her mom first heard her sing for their family, Kathy thought she was just a proud "stage mom" but quickly realized Kayleigh had developed a wonderful talent.

  • Her biggest dreams came true

  • The assault that left her blind in one eye didn't deter 16-year-old Kayleigh from dreaming big. She wanted to record an album, sing with folk singer Tommy Fleming and be on television.

  • Her dreams to sing with Fleming and be on television came true when she sang live with Fleming on Miriam O'Callaghan's Saturday Night Show in 2012.

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  • "I feel like this whole experience is just like a dream all in one," she said.

  • Her story was shared all over the world as other news stations, magazines and talk shows picked it up.

  • With her singing career starting to take off, Kayleigh auditioned and made it on The Voice of Ireland in 2015.

  • A few years later, Kayleigh's third dream came true. She released her first album, Made a Wish, in March 2017.

  • She has nine tracks on her album, which include songs that portray her wish to achieve her dreams and leave the trauma of her past behind her.

  • Kayleigh's album is on Amazon, Spotify and her website.

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  • Kayleigh shares her story and advice for those struggling with bullies

  • Kathy shared her daughter's heart-wrenching story on YouTube with one of Kayleigh's songs playing in the background.

  • "We truly believe that when the thugs stole Kayleigh's sight, she gained a beautiful voice in recompense," she said.

  • To those who are victims of bullying, Kayleigh says "never give up." Those are the three words that got her through it.

  • "Stay strong," she said. "Any negative energy that you have, put it into something positive."

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Shaelynn Miller is a staff writer for FamilyShare who has a passion for writing, video production and photography.

Website: http://shaelynnmiller.weebly.com/

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