The Story Of A Quad Amputee's Fight To Become A Dancer, With Her Sister By Her Side

Her arms and legs amputated, she fought to become a dancer, with her half-sister by her side.

Cover image via ABC News

When Kiera Brinkley works on choreographing a dance, she loses herself in her work

Kiera Brinkley

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Sometimes, the 20-year-old becomes so lost in the movements she forgets for a second that she lacks the hands, fingers and feet to fully carry out her vision

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“I picture myself with arms and legs. When I come to the class [to teach the choreography], I forget don’t have any,” Brinkley told ABC News. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry about that,’” to the other dancers.

Kiera was just two years old when she contracted Pneumococcal Sepsis, a bacterial infection in the blood. It affected her arteries and damaged her extremities.

Kiera became a quadruple amputee after contracting pneumococcal sepsis, a bacterial infection in the blood, at age 2. The infection affected her arteries and damaged her extremities. Doctors had to amputate portions of her arms and legs to save her life.

Only two years old at the time of her amputation, Kiera ended up having a key friend to help her stay as mobile as the other kids: her younger half-sister, Uriah Boyd

Kiera and her younger half-sister Uriah Boyd (pictured together as babies)

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But instead of living a sedentary life, she took a different route. 'I was never the type of quote-unquote "disabled person" to stay in my wheelchair the entire day and have everybody wait on me,' says Kiera.

PHOTO: Uriah and Kiera dance together even though Kiera lost four limbs as an infant due to an infection

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As the pair became older, they became so close they could communicate without speaking. The pair would practice movements or just play together using certain dance, almost gymnastic movements

Boyd was only a month old when Kiera lost her limbs. As Boyd grew up, she wanted to emulate her older sister. Boyd even crawled like Brinkley, scooting on her diaper, instead of using her arms and legs. When Kiera was put in a dance class, she taught her sister movements and they practiced together.

Kiera and her sister are the subjects of a documentary called “Soar,” currently being edited, that tracks their lives as they deal with becoming adults and full-fledged dancers at different companies in Portland, Oregon. The documentary was inspired by the first dance piece the pair performed together, which was inspired by their close relationship.
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"Soar's" director, Susan Logeais, told ABC News she was amazed by both of the sisters’ abilities. “I was mesmerized and blown away,” said Logeais, who was asked by the choreographer to visit the show. “Uriah moved in a very different way ... because she grew up moving in a way that Kiera has moved.”

Professional dancing is hard on any body. Amputees, especially, "aren't really supposed to dance," Kiera said. Dancing sharpens Kiera's bones to pencil points.

Even with full limbs, Kiera would have been a hard act to follow. She’s charismatic and confident, assured of what she wants. Her disability -- the moves she makes with clipped wings -- has drawn even more attention to Kiera.

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Every time she relevés -- a ballet move that puts most dancers on their tiptoes and Brinkley on bone ends -- she is edging herself one step closer to surgery.

Every few years she goes to the hospital. A doctor breaks the sharpened bones off, resets her legs. Brinkley spends the months after incapacitated, depending on family members to help her use the bathroom or make dinner.

She didn’t want that cycle to be her life, so she enrolled in Benson Tech to study health sciences. She performed in talent shows and occasionally in her own bedroom. She did a short routine for news crews once in a while. But mostly she stopped performing.

Kiera graduated and studied to become a medical assistant. But she missed what her sister had in the performances. "I was bored," Kiera admitted. "It didn't give me the joy that dancing does."

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She couldn’t get dance out of her head and kept performing at various events. Eventually, she was approached by a member of a professional dance company in Portland.

However, after being included with other professional dancers, Brinkley said she struggled to fit in, especially without her sister. “I was terrified. [Uriah] was always my security blanket, almost,” said Brinkley. “I didn’t have to verbally speak on how I couldn’t do something, I just had [Uriah].”

Kiera is now a full-fledged member of the Polaris Dance Theatre dance company, where she both performs and choreographs dance

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Boyd said seeing her sister in a professional company has helped her develop her own dance skills and allow both of the sisters to be more independent from one another. “I can learn a lot of things by watching her,” said Boyd.

After graduating high school, Boyd joined another dance company in the area. She said she’s debated doing other work, including working in construction, but for now dancing remains her main passion. “Every time I stop for a while and I write or draw. It always comes back,” said Boyd. “Dance has always been that thing where it’s in my life. I’m never really chasing it.”

Kiera said she's come to accept that dance will always be a huge part of her life, even though she believes her physical limitations will mean a shorter dance career

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"When I got serious about dance, it was an expression, [it's] my voice without speaking," said Kiera.

WATCH: Sisters Uriah and Kiera Dance Together

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