Through the Lens of a Big Sister
by Olivia Overlease, age 15
How can I explain something as unexplainable as Evelyn’s accident? To be honest, I am not entirely sure. But I will try to do Evelyn justice when I tell the amazing true story that is her own.
I was in Latin when the first calls started coming. My phone was on “do not disturb,” so I could not hear it ringing. After the bell rang, I packed my backpack and waited in the New Grande Salle at Sion for my dad to pick me up for my physical therapy appointment. After a while, I decided I should call him and make sure he had not forgotten about the appointment, as it was reaching the point where we would be late. It was then that I saw the missed calls and texts. There must have been around eleven. The most recent text was from my grandma, Mary Conlon, “Surprise! We are picking you up from school!” Next, were the calls from Dad, I figured he had called to explain the change in plan. What I heard next from my dad I will never be able to forget. I was informed that Evelyn had had a terrible accident. She had been hit by a falling tree limb. She was on her way to the hospital in an ambulance with Mom. The grandparents were coming to get me.
I realized I was about to break down. Up until that point I had been behind black dividers where student artwork was displayed, pacing back and forth, tears running down my face as I processed the information I had just received. I needed to find Grace Hill. She is currently my neighbor and has been my closest friend since kindergarten. I had enough sense to piece together that she would probably be in the bathroom getting ready for track practice. I stumbled from behind the dividers and made my way to the bathroom calling out her name in a small, shaky voice. I was stopped just before reaching the entrance to the bathroom by some classmates asking what was wrong. By this point I was full on crying. I managed to tell them my sister was hit by a tree limb and was on the way to the hospital. Just then, Grace came out of the bathroom.
She immediately realized something was wrong, and I started explaining the extremely limited version of what I knew. And then my phone started ringing again. It was my grandma. I do not remember exactly what she said, but I do remember wondering if she knew about Ev and the accident by the tone of her voice. She sounded almost happy or excited. I now realize that she was not aware that I knew, and she tried to keep herself calm and not let her voice give away too much.
After hanging up with Grandma, I realized my mom had been calling me. At this point I was not fully aware of how dire the situation was. I called her back and her voice immediately sounded foreign to me. Anyone who knows my mom knows how joyful her voice always is, but it was void of joy when she answered. I knew there was something she was not telling me, and more importantly, I knew Evelyn was definitely not okay. A coach realized how distraught I was and someone explained the situation to her. She moved Grace and me to the physical trainer’s room, along with two other classmates, to finish the phone call. After I hung up with my mom, I felt absolutely sick. I thought I might pass out before I could make it to the front office, where my grandparents were waiting for me. Grace walked me without saying a word. She understood. She let me cry, she hugged me, but she did not tell me it was alright or that Evelyn was going to be okay. We both knew it was not alright and that there was a very strong possibility that Evelyn was not going to be okay.
The next thirty minutes to an hour were some of the worst minutes of my life. I was trapped in a car and I could do nothing to help Evelyn. We drove past the Wells’ house so I could see the tree. There were cars everywhere. Once we got home Grandma Jane rushed outside and gave me a hug. I was informed Winston was at the scene of the accident, and I became very emotional and upset.
Eventually, I ended up at the hospital, after a long ride of intermittent silence, broken by questions of, “Are you okay?”, “What can we do for you?”, and “How are you feeling?” I wanted to scream, “How do you think I’m doing?!” But, of course, my answers were generic: fine, nothing, okay.
When we got to the hospital, we walked upstairs to the Ronald McDonald family room. Father Storey was already there, along with the Hills and other family members. I hugged my mom and broke down again.
After a while, we were ushered into a larger waiting room. My parents explained what they knew so far, and we waited for Evelyn’s surgery to end. Around dinnertime, my Grandpa Mike took me to the Ronald McDonald room first, but there was no food. One of the social workers said she could lead us downstairs, as she was escorting a chaperone and a few girls out of the hospital. When we got on the elevator the girls gave me strange looks because I was wearing the jacket my mom had been wearing when Evelyn’s head was on her lap. The jacket was covered in blood. I asked my mom to let me wear it because something within me convinced me it would let me feel closer to Evelyn.
After I had gotten my sandwich, and my grandpa was filling up his drink, the chaperone came up to me and started talking.
“From the moment you came into the room, I knew something was not right. The social worker told me about your sister and I am very sorry. I don’t know if you believe in God, but if you do He has the power to help her get better, and will help you and your family no matter the outcome.”
I smiled as tears filled my eyes, and I thanked her. That part of the story has stuck with me, as I believe it was a God wink, as my mom calls them, and I hope I’ll never forget that woman’s kind words.
The next few hours, and days, were a blur. I spent most of my time either in the hospital or at school and track practice. I remember my mom telling me that she felt so sorry that she couldn’t be with us and help us through this difficult time, and it made her feel like a horrible mother. I said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I have my friends.”
Looking back, it might’ve been my friends that kept me sane. They looked after me and showed their support. Grace would go on long walks with me and we would just talk. We didn’t even necessarily talk about Ev, we just talked, and that was what took my mind off of all the possible outcomes. My teachers were also amazing. They checked in on me every chance they got and would continue to ask about Ev’s recovery throughout the school year. Mrs. Paterson, my awesome Biology teacher, even collected gifts from the freshmen class for me to take home to Evelyn, and that really made her smile.
I run the 200m, 400m, and 4 x 400m relay on my high school track team. One of my coaches, Lori Donnelly, asked me how Evelyn was doing. I told her that she was doing as well as she could. Coach Donnelly then asked me if I could describe Evelyn in one word, what would it be? I said, “Evelyn is a fighter.” That is Evelyn in one word. If you have the opportunity to know Evelyn, then you may be one of the luckiest people alive. She will defend you, has the wittiest comebacks in history, and will always support her friends.
I don’t know how Evelyn got through that accident the way she did, with almost no alteration to her normal. She is still as witty, driven, athletic, and kind as she was before her accident. I was so worried she was going to be different, not the little Evelyn that I absolutely adored. I didn’t know if she would remember her funny little nicknames for me, like O-Yo, Fro-Yo (where she came up with that one I have no idea!). And I didn’t know if she would be able to do the things she loved again.
It was a very difficult and painful time, but she made it through. Yet, sometimes I feel guilty that she made it with almost no change. There are so many kids out there who deal with horrible things and don’t recover. And sometimes I wish people could look at Evelyn and see a mark that showed what a traumatic event she had experienced. I feel so guilty for thinking this, because what kind of sister wishes a constant reminder of pain and suffering on her little sister? But what people don’t realize at first glance is how hard she had to fight to get to where she is now. It was not an easy recovery, and I saw her in pain so many times. But she did it. Evelyn is a fighter.