GREENFIELD — Kyla Godsey doesn’t mind being different.
Her peers know of her medical condition, she says.
She’s the one who passes out a lot.
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While all the stares and attention can be embarrassing (like the time she passed out at the prom), the 18-year-old with a heart condition says maybe it’s OK that she’s not a “normal teenager.”
Godsey will walk across the Greenfield-Central High School stage June 6 to receive her diploma, and she hopes for maybe a few more stares — though perhaps they’ll be looks of inspiration for the girl who didn’t let a medical condition get in the way of her future.
“All the trials and stuff I go through, I’m not going to stop,” she said.
Godsey was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome after a frightening eighth-grade year.
Known as POTS, the condition is characterized by rapid heartbeat and poor blood flow.
“I started passing out every single day; sometimes more than once, sometimes six times a day,” she said.
“I went through tons of tests; it was just ridiculous all these different types of tests I went through. I was barely in school.”
Her high school career was marked by frequent absences; this semester alone, she’s missed 24 days. Sometimes, she stayed at home; other times she had to make a trip to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Often, her doctors switched her medication to see if another combination of drugs would help her heart rate.
She felt sick to her stomach, suffered bad headaches and even faced broken ribs and bruised arms from falling.
While she appreciated the concern from her peers, it was hard to be the center of attention at times.
“I hate it,” she said. “Obviously, I don’t like to pass out; it’s not fun. If I’m at home or just with one friend, it’s like, ‘I’ll be OK.’ When I passed out at prom, I was so embarrassed, I got up and ran out.”
But she’s persevered.
Godsey can’t play sports but filled her time with other activities.
“Basically anything the church is doing, you’ll see me there,” she said.
A former intern at Park Chapel Christian Church, Godsey continues to stick around the youth and children’s programs, helping out wherever she’s needed.
Even when she yearned to go on a mission trip to Mexico but couldn’t because of her heart condition, Godsey wrote Bible lessons for her peers to take with them.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for God and all he’s done for me,” she said. “I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday. Asked questions like, ‘Did God create chicken nuggets?’”
But it was in a hospital bed that eighth-grade year that her parents’ faith became her own.
“I was just crying and said, ‘I cannot do this on my own,’” she said. “That’s where I really found God.”
Godsey is an inspiration to her peers, Park Chapel student minister Charlie Ketchen said.
“She continues to just keep moving, keep doing what she loves to do,” he said. “She leads by example, just in her attitude and her overall demeanor.”
Godsey admits she’s not the perfect student; math, for example, has been a struggle. While she kept up with schoolwork that eighth-grade year, she missed learning the fundamentals of algebra, leaving her sitting in the back of her high school classes simply confused.
Rather than fall behind, Godsey looked to after-school tutoring.
“She’s the perfect student in that she comes and gets help,” math teacher Michelle Marler said. “She has every excuse in the world, and she still makes the time.”
Guidance counselor Sherri Foster has worked with Godsey throughout her high school career, from planning her schedule to figuring out how she would get through just one tough day.
“She started her freshman year really struggling and had to play catch-up the rest of the time and was doing so with several obstacles in the way,” she said. “She managed to continue to come, seek out help, maintain a positive spirit about it even when it was rough.”
Sure, there were times she thought about just giving up, Godsey said.
“But there was no way I could do that,” she said, crediting her family, friends and faith for getting her through.
When she’s not catching up on schoolwork or working in ministry, Godsey is a cadet for the Greenfield Fire Department. She wants to become a youth minister but also would consider working as a volunteer firefighter on the side.
Parents Beverly and Kenneth Godsey will have to have a box of tissues when they watch their daughter graduate next week.
“She’s climbed that mountain, and she’s reached the top,” Beverly Godsey said. “She made it. I’ll tell you what, I’m proud of that girl. She is so inspiring to other girls, even to us as her parents.”
That’s just the way Godsey wants it to be. Heading to Grace College to major in youth ministry and minor in child psychology, Godsey hopes her friends don’t just look at her as the girl who passes out. She wants them to see the girl who overcomes.
“I want to be inspiring; I want to be hopeful,” she said.
“That’s what I want to show the world. I’m sick. I’m a sick kid, but I’m still a fire cadet. I work in the church. I’m still going to graduate. No matter what you are going through, you can overcome it with God.”