The Ultimate Gift
Pilates Style|September - October 2020
One year ago, Kahley Schiller’s life was completely upended by an extreme health crisis. But thanks to her 20-year Pilates practice, the 40-year-old was able to recover quickly.
Kahley Schiller

KAHLEY SCHILLER ON THE REFORMER 11 MONTHS AFTER HER LIVER TRANSPLANT.

GROWING UP IN KANSAS CITY, MO, I STARTED TAKING DANCE LESSONS AT AGE 10. Being a dancer was all I wanted to be. So when I was accepted as a dance major at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 2000, I was thrilled.

A downside to my years of dancing, however, was that I suffered from chronic knee pain. Shortly after starting college, I was advised to have surgery on both knees. Thankfully, I had just started taking Pilates because it was a three-semester requirement for dance majors. I was incredibly lucky enough to have Dolly Kelepecz as my teacher.

Dolly had trained under EveGentry and had started the Pilates program at UNLV. She became my guiding force. She helped me rehab my knees—the results from Pilates were absolutely amazing. I had no more pain and didn’t need surgery!

REALIZING MY DREAM

After that, I knew I wanted to make Pilates my career. I told Dolly that I hoped to learn everything that I could from her, then return home and start my own studio. And I did exactly that.

After I was certified by Dolly through D.K. Body Balancing and UNLV, I became an instructor at the university, teaching Pilates to dance majors. I also taught at Dolly's studio, traveled to Tokyo to open her first studio in Japan, and became UNLV’s master teacher/ trainer for the Pilates certification.

I spent a decade pouring myself into my work. I ended up moving three times into ever bigger studios, and have certified and employed numerous Pilates instructors. Then at 35, I had my first child with my fiancé Jake. We now have a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old son, in addition to Jake’s 14-year-old daughter. So my life was very full and very busy. Then in August, 2019, I started experiencing on and off nausea.

A PILATES HOMECOMING

In 2005, when I was 25, I came home and opened a studio in Overland Park, KS. At the time, there was only one other studio in the area. But there were so many interested clients that three months after opening, I was so busy that I needed to hire another instructor.

I spent a decade pouring myself into my work. I ended up moving three times into ever bigger studios, and have certified and employed numerous Pilates instructors. Then at 35, I had my first child with my fiancé Jake. We now have a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old son, in addition to Jake’s 14-year-old daughter.

SUDDEN HEALTH CONCERNS

So my life was very full and very busy. Then in August, 2019, I started experiencing on and off nausea. At first, I didn’t take it seriously. Honestly, I thought I might be pregnant again. But when serious fatigue set in, I went to a walk-in clinic at my doctor’s office. I was told that it was probably my diet, and I should rest a bit. But four days later, the whites of my eyes turned yellow. I returned to the doctor’s and blood work was quickly done—then everything became a whirlwind. I was immediately sent to the ER. From there, I was taken by ambulance to the ICU at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where they did more tests and a liver biopsy.

It turned out that I had acute (end stage) liver failure caused by autoimmune hepatitis, a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its liver cells, causing inflammation of the liver, which can lead to liver failure. I didn’t even know that I had the disease. I was 39 and thought that I was incredibly healthy. Instead, I was told that without a liver transplant, I had about 90 days to live.

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