Co-Founder: Caleigh’s Story
April 21, 2007- I woke on the morning of April 21st, 2007.
The suns bright rays beamed from the sky. I was a sixth grader enjoying life and cheerleading had started again. As the day went on laughter faded, switched by tears and sobs. I found out my nine-year-old, bubbly little sister had brain tumor the size of a walnut; “Lumpy the loser.” Cheerleading routines became a mere memory and “Lumpy the Loser” became my worst enemy. This was the day Brooke started fighting for her life, while I fought to keep my sanity.
“Caleigh, please go pack a bag with whatever you want, we are headed to Chicago,” my mom yells.
I lift my head, blue eyes wide meeting my moms and nod my head as shivers run down my body.
Sitting in the car staring out the window.
The sun has started going down and the world is painted a light blue by the sky. As we approach Chicago, tall buildings are a blur as they are full of dim lighting. For a forty-five-minute drive, it felt like ten minutes. I keep repeating “Our Father,” prayer in my head; over and over again. In the pit of my stomach nausea rolls over me. My parents make small talk in the front and my sister is slouching in the seat next to me.
We arrived shortly in the emergency room of the now Laurie Ann’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. I walk in gripping my bag with dear life, as faces all turn to the new comers who walk through the haunted hospital doors. My nose crunches as I take in chemicals mixed with fast food.
My family and I wait for over an hour before we got to see a doctor. I see families from all over the Chicago area. Each one of the families, I realize has their own haunted story. Parents are hysterically crying, babies wondering the ER as their parents talk to nurses. My senses are overloaded as my head keeps bouncing in all directions. The worst part of the ER are the piercing screams of the children. I realize that some of these innocent children are not leaving the ER.
I walk around the emergency room until I find Brooke. Meeting her eyes, they are puffy and red, tears are about to rise again. Brooke’s eyes make brief contact with mine. Slowly turning her head, she goes back to staring at the door, ignoring my presence. She is in a childlike room, that is filled with faded animals that line the walls. These animals are trying to calm the sadden faces that enter every single day. I stare nervously at Brooke, trying to make small talk, but nothing I say to her works. I want to calm her, while mom and dad are just steps away talking with the doctor; but I am useless. I reach for her hand and she pulls back in sudden horror; all she wants is my mom. No matter what I do, I became another body in an over crowed room.
It has been over an hour and my butt has gone numb from sitting in a washed up hospital chair. The light blush of my face, has been replaced with a flu like color that no longer makes me look human. Young looking girls, wearing all different color scrubs run around here like the next legally blonde. ‘What are they so happy about? You’re treating sick kids for god sakes?’. Not all of these girls look like the girl, next door, rather we’ve got some plump ones in here with a sour faces.
These are the types of nurses that are trying to furiously draw blood out of my little sisters’ hand. Brooke’s skin is as thick as our Italian blood. Finding her veins is like going on a treasure hunt. I quickly glance her way to see bruises start to form on the top center of her hand. Her youthful eyes sagging with tears slowly dripping.
The night nurses have been at this for over an hour. I overhear my parents talking that we could be here all night and they really need Brooke’s blood. My mom is next to my sister calmly rubbing her back. My mom looks like shit. Her once lush blonde hair is now matted around her face as she forces a tight smile that makes her look like she has Botox. I am about to suggest my mom eat a big mac cheese burger otherwise the doctors might think she is the sick one; I think against it.
I do not understand why all of this happening, especially to Brooke.
“She is so pure, innocent, bubbly and she good, God. WHY her? WHY now? WHY isn’t it me?” I make a mental note that after all of this, I am pissed off at God.
I slowly drag my feet to a near by restroom. I push the battered blue door open to be greeted by darkness. From above, lights flicker with spiders intertwined all around. I shuffle to the bathroom sink as my shaky hands grip the rusted white sink. My eyes meet the mirror, as a youthful blonde girl stares back. Her lush blue eyes are a glimmer in the darkness. Slowly I lift my right hand to trace the face staring back at me. Only before my hand meets the mirror the face is replaced. I see a young adult, with blue eyes that dare you to tempt her. The shaking of my hands has spread all throughout my body. I stare at that face and slowly back myself out of the restroom.
“Caleigh, Caleigh wake up honey,” my mom says while gently shaking my shoulders.
My eyes slowly drift open to the piercing hospital lighting, greeted by my moms’ ghostly face.
“I need you to listen. Brooke, dad and I are all staying at the night at the hospital. You are to go home with auntie B.B.”
“But, but I don’t want to mom. I want to stay with you,” I say as my voice quivers.
“Caleigh, please. We will call you as soon as we can,” my mom says.
Nodding my head, I turn and walk out of the hospital without even glancing back at my family.