GREEN RIVER — A little over a year ago, Kayla Vigil couldn’t go to the grocery store without people staring at her. Sometimes people would avoid eye contact or make comments about her.
Why were they staring? Vigil had lost a body part. She lost her right eye after an all-terrain vehicle accident that broke every bone in her face and nearly took her life.
The journey to recovery, especially before she got her prosthetic eye, was a difficult one.
On July 27, 2018, Vigil and her now fiancé David Clinton decided on a whim to go on an ATV ride at FMC Park near Green River. She wanted to drive because he nearly always did the driving.
Clinton coaxed her to take a turn and climb up a hill, so she did. Partway up the hill, the ATV hit a large rock, lost momentum, and started rolling backward. Clinton reached up to try to correct it, and the ATV began to barrel roll down the hill, coming to rest at a flat spot.
When Clinton came to, he found his girlfriend facedown in the road.
“I was bleeding really bad from my chin and my eye was out, literally just hanging,” Vigil said.
Clinton called 911 and proceeded to keep Vigil conscious.
“He was talking to me, telling me how beautiful I was … while I had my eyeball hanging out and choking on blood. Definitely not the definition of beautiful,” she said.
The first responders were quick to reach their location 15 minutes out of town, but for Vigil it felt like an eternity as she struggled for each breath.
“My mom and dad have both done medical stuff, so I knew the basics of when you’re this messed up what your chances are,” said Vigil.
Firefighters had to carry her down the hill in a sitting position. She was later flown to Salt Lake City. Vigil put up a fight when they separated her and Clinton, sending him to seek treatment for his broken collarbone.
FIVE DAYS OF UNCERTAINTY
Vigil wasn’t out of the woods when she got to the hospital. Her jaw was split in half so she couldn’t talk, she had a lacerated spleen and liver, and she had a brain bleed. Hospital staff took her every 30 minutes for scans monitoring her vital organs.
It was five days, said Vigil, before they knew she wasn’t going to die. They’d given her a small whiteboard on which to communicate. At one point she wrote out, “What are my chances?” Vigil said her dad couldn’t answer because he got emotional.
Despite Clinton’s own injuries and limited mobility, he was by Vigil’s side only a few hours later. They released him early because she was very sick.
“When he got there, the doctor said that my numbers immediately started getting better. I was so stressed being away from him, not knowing if he was OK and knowing how bad of shape I was in,” Vigil said.
The road to recovery required a slow two months in the hospital making incremental improvements. She now has 76 screws and 10 plates in her face.
When Vigil went home to Green River after two months in the hospital, she looked different.
“They completely Bic’d my hair down, so I was balder than bald. I had no eye. I had lost a lot of weight because I couldn’t eat for two months because my jaw was wired shut,” Vigil said.
One of the hardest parts of the whole ordeal was not being recognized by people who knew her well.
“I struggled a lot with going out in public because I looked so much different. There were tons of people that I knew before that didn’t even recognize me. I’d see them in the store and I’d be like a stranger to them. They wouldn’t acknowledge me like they would have two months ago. That really got to me,” said Vigil.
One moment stood out as especially powerful during her recovery. She ran into the man who is now her current boss, Nick Fletcher, in Walmart.
“He came up and gave me a huge hug and told me I was absolutely beautiful. At that moment, it meant everything having him just know who I was because I was so down. From the outside, it must sound ridiculous. I lost it in Walmart because someone recognized me.”
LOSING THE EYE
Vigil underwent an evisceration surgery, which removes the inner parts of the eye and leaves the shell.
“A prosthetic eye is not round. It’s a big contact,” Vigil said.
After the surgery, she had to heal before she could get the prosthetic, which meant she spent two months with nothing.
“I either had a red eye or I’d patch it up for going out in public if I felt uncomfortable. I got to the point where I didn’t care. I would just go out with it,” she said.
Losing her eye was hard.
“My eyes were the main thing I absolutely loved about myself. Having the one thing that I was 100% confidant about taken away was super hard. I was down for a while,” she said.
Vigil had always loved creating bold makeup looks in her free time. After the accident, she had to relearn how to do it all.
“Before I learned the techniques for doing makeup with one eye, it was very discouraging. You just see what you were capable of before, and then you’re cut down to kindergarten level,” said Vigil.
She practiced for hours upon hours, eventually starting to do Facebook Live tutorials. She did bolder looks upon request, even doing some looks without her prosthetic eye. Vigil said it made her feel more confident.
“I feel like you need to love yourself. Everybody is different. So what, now I have a prosthetic and I’m going to rock the prosthetic,” she said.
For October, Vigil is doing 31 days of Halloween and including some creepy looks. It’s what her followers have been requesting. She sells cosmetics as an independent sales consultant and teaches people how to wear their makeup.
“I feel like it helped me get back to my happiness and confidence. I get on Facebook Live and I’m super real with people. All my followers know I have a prosthetic. There are looks where I’ll take my prosthetic out. They see, ‘She can do this, which means I can do it. I need to be confident with this flaw I have with myself.’ I want to be that person that helps inspire other people to be themselves and be happy with where they’re at.”