From court to classroom, BYU student defies medical odds

Kylie Webster watches a BYU women’s basketball game on her phone during a men’s game at the Marriott Center earlier this year. (Kylie Webster)

Kylie Webster joins the thousands of fans at the Marriott Center to watch BYU basketball.

Nerves are setting in, but not for the men’s game. Kylie won’t be paying much attention.

Instead she pulls out her phone to watch the women’s away game. She can’t miss a single minute; BYU women’s basketball means everything to her.

“It’s my daily prayer to one day be able to play with my teammates, all of them,” Webster said. “I want them to succeed because I want so much good for them. They brought so much good to me.”

Webster, from Alpine, Utah, was born a normal, healthy girl who could walk and even run by the time she was nine months old. When she was two, her parents noticed she began to trip a lot. At age five, Webster was diagnosed with Leigh’s Disease, a rare neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system.

Doctors told Webster’s family she wouldn’t live to celebrate her eighth birthday. If she did, she’d be completely dependent, needing help to walk, talk and eat.

Webster has defied all odds thanks to her deeply rooted faith and optimism. Though she is confined to a wheelchair and struggles with a loss of physical and mental abilities, she continues to surpass all her doctor’s expectations.

She lives on her own as a BYU student and manages the BYU women’s basketball team and aides in the classroom at the BYU Child and Family Studies Lab.

As one of five children in her family, Webster’s love for the game came from watching her siblings play basketball.

“I always tell people that I was born to play, but someone forgot to tell my legs,” Webster said with a smile.

Webster managed the Snow College women’s basketball team after graduating high school. She transferred to BYU in 2011 and became involved with the team after her best friend convinced her to contact the women’s basketball coach.

Though she would give anything to be able to play, Webster is thankful for the opportunity to do the next best thing: be a team manager.

“It’s something I’m not able to do in a physical way but I can do it in a way that I can be part of the game I truly love,” Webster said.

Webster participates in practice by running the shot clock, recording turnovers and making sure the practice jerseys and basketballs are out on the court. She also sits courtside during the games to support her teammates.

Sophomore guard Cassie Broadhead said Webster’s positive attitude has made her the team’s No. 1 cheerleader.

Kylie poses with Cassie Broadhead after the Cougars defeated San Diego to win the regular season conference championship in February. (Kylie Webster)

“She is such a motivator for me and my teammates. She is a great inspiration and a great friend,” Broadhead said. “She has so many trials and physical barriers and it’s hard for her to do some things, but she is always smiling.”

Webster said the team doesn’t realize how much they keep her going, having welcomed her with open arms since the beginning.

“The biggest thing is the team and the coaches and the relationships I have with them, the caring and kindness that we’ve built,” Webster said. “They are like a second family to me and they would drop anything for me. From day one that’s how it’s always been.”

From the Marriott Center Webster zooms across campus to her job at the BYU preschool where she is commonly known as “Hot Wheels.”

“She shows the kids that even though you have physical limitations of any kind, you can still pursue a dream and you can still do hard things with a positive attitude,” said BYU Child and Family Studies Lab Director Anne Ure.

During a lesson on doing hard things, Webster showed the kids how she could use a walker to get from the classroom door to the sandbox. One child cheered in amazement, “Your legs do work, Miss Kylie!”

“The kids bring joy to my day. I love the people I work with,” Webster said. “They have helped me so much.”

Ure said Webster is a visual reminder to the kids that everybody has different talents and abilities.

“It’s the people around me that make me who I am and they are the ones that put a smile on my face,” Webster said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without these struggles and without having to rely on Heavenly Father.”

From the basketball court to the preschool and beyond, Webster hopes she can inspire people who are struggling to know they have a purpose and can do whatever they put their mind to.

“It will be a grand day when that day comes when I can step on to that court and put that jersey on,” Webster said. “That day will make this life so worth it,”

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