Keira’s had some big firsts this year, many courtesy of Variety.
Not only did she get her first camp experience through Variety, but she also made her stage debut as Chip in the Variety Children’s Theatre production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast this past October.
And her acting chops have also been put to good use by Variety in an online video to sell tickets to the musical, and an upcoming video, screening at Wehrenberg Theatres throughout St. Louis, promoting Variety’s Gold Heart Pins campaign.
All of these things would have seemed unimaginable when Keira was born in Vietnam ten years ago.
In one of the few places where polio is still a scourge, the disease struck Keira at just a few months old.
Soon after, an American woman named Heather stepped off a plane in Vietnam and into Keira’s life. Which changed both of their lives forever.
Heather knew from the time she was a little girl that someday she would adopt a child from Asia.
Now, at the age of thirty, that day had come. With paperwork complete, she went to Vietnam with the expectation of taking home a healthy baby.
“The day we met her, she was super sick. She had a temperature of 104 and she didn’t move the right side of her body,” Heather said. Doctors there thought Keira had suffered a stroke.
Back in the U.S., a local hospital began caring for Keira at 13 months. She was diagnosed at 19 months with polio, which has been eradicated from most of the world.
“There are only two places where polio is still around,” Heather said. “Southeast Asia is one of them.”
Keira lives with a weakness on the right side of her body. Her right lung is paralyzed and her right leg has not kept pace with the growth of the left. It is 2 inches shorter, so she wears a shoe with a special lift. Future surgeries may help grow the bone in that leg.
“They said she would never walk,” Heather said.
They were wrong.
Keira has had multiple surgeries over the years, the most recent in January when she underwent hip surgery.
“The hip was the third back-to-back surgery in two years,” Heather said. That included ACL reconstruction on her knees in 2015. “But, from Day 1, she’s been an outgoing child. No fear.”
She was still recovering and in a wheelchair when she auditioned for the Variety show.
Off stage, Keira is home-schooled and in fifth grade. Life revolves around lessons, visits to multiple doctors, and physical and occupational therapy sessions.
Considering hospital stays, surgeries and the constant pain, “She’s got such an upbeat attitude,” Heather said.
And she puts that attitude to good use in a lot of wonderful ways.
Keira is an ambassador for Shriners Hospital in St. Louis, has sung at public events and competed in local festival pageants. She was recently named Junior Miss Italian Fest at the annual event in Collinsville.
Everyone Keira meets she touches. And that’s why we’re so proud she’s a Variety kid.
More to know ABOUT KEIRA
- Age: 10
- Hometown: O’Fallon
- Family: Mom Heather and grandmother Monica
- Homeschooled: Keira is in fifth grade
- Favorite color: Purple and rainbow
- Best school subject: “Well, I like English, math and science. And history.” (Mom says it’s history.)
- Favorite book: A series called “Magic Tree House.”
- Favorite movie: “Tangled” and anything Harry Potter.
- Advice to children who might be facing serious health problems: “I’d tell them to never give up. They’ll feel better and get back to being strong.”
- Plans for the future: “I want to be a knee doctor so I can help my Grandma.”