BCHS cheerleader, Kaleigh Watts, stricken with debilitating disorder

Kaleigh showing her spirit, with best friend Hayley Martin.

The Watts family of Cayce is dealing with a crisis. Kaleigh Watts, daughter of Craig and Paula Watts, is a junior and a cheerleader at Brookland-Cayce High School.

On Feb. 25, Kaleigh went to the doctor for what was thought to be a cold or sinus infection. She was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and given an antibiotic for the infection and a swollen lymph node that was discovered.

Link to GoFundMe account to help Kaleigh’s family

Two days after, Kaleigh woke up around 3 a.m. screaming in excruciating pain. Her back and legs were aching “in her bones” and her feet and hands were burning and itching.

Kaleigh was taken back to the doctor, but her symptoms worsened. She broke out in a rash and lost her ability to urinate. By last Wednesday (March 13) Kaleigh was experiencing numbness and tingling in her hands, feet, face and legs, with excruciating pain in her nerve endings. She was also losing her fine motor skills. Doctors in Columbia, after multiple visits, couldn’t pinpoint a cause.

Out of desperation Kaleigh’s parents decided to take her to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. There, an MRI showed severe inflammation in all of her nerve endings, with severe nerve damage in the neck and brain that could potentially affect her hearing, vision, speech and swallowing and chewing ability.

A spinal tap confirmed Kaleigh had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Kaleigh and Hayley in the hospital. 

Craig Watts said Tuesday that Kaleigh has received an infusion of antibiotics to repair the damage caused by the GBS, and the treatment has been effective.

“But she still has an uphill battle,” said Watts. She can’t hold a knife or fork because of the loss of her fine-motor skills. She faces months of occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Kaleigh will be a homebound student until she is well enough to go back to school. It could take six-to-12 months, but Kaleigh, he said, is strong, and determined. Watts also said the financial strain on the family has been heavy, but he is grateful that Kaleigh has been diagnosed and she can begin to work get back to normal. For now, she could be in Charleston for a couple more weeks. And there are still more trips and back, and all the treatment is not covered by insurance.

So far, Craig and Paula have missed days of work, without pay, to be with Kaleigh. Craig works for AT&T and Paula is a teacher at Saluda River Academy of the Arts in West Columbia.
Despite the trial Craig said the family has kept its strong faith.

“I feel better now,” he said. “My outlook is 360 degrees from what it was a week ago.”

Categories: Cayce, Lexington, Lexington County, West Columbia