Caroline Byrne, otherwise known as Bou, Leesville junior, my little sister, my best friend and my inspiration.
Bou suffered a traumatic brain injury from medical complications after corrective scoliosis surgery.
The injury affected her central nervous system, activating an unknown genetic condition Caroline carried, which caused her suffer issues with speech and movement. At the tender age of 13, Caroline’s world turned upside down as she pulled out of middle school to recover.
As one could imagine, I was an overwhelmed freshman in complete emotional turmoil. Bou is my closest friend in the world and doctors were unable to determine whether or not she was going to survive. I didn’t eat, sleep and maxed out on my number of absences at school. It was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of change my sister’s illness brought to my family life.
Meanwhile, Caroline was fighting for her life while taking physical and speech therapies and eventually home hospital classes to complete middle school courses. I was essentially a blubbering mess, and she was actively saving herself from serious, life-long medical complications.
Two years later, after treatment, she began improving, blossoming academically, gaining physical strength and stamina. I was suddenly out of excuses to disregard school and dwell in the possibility of her condition worsening. I picked myself up, looking at my brave younger sister as a reason to believe that I could achieve whatever I wished to accomplish.
Three years later, Bou and I have been on an academic upswing, she retains a 4.0 and is currently enrolled in three classes as a junior at Leesville. Next year, she hopes to be strong enough to take four classes. Every day I look at her and am amazed by how far she has come; from barely being able to walk and speak to reciting paragraphs, playing piano, singing and running a one mile race.
Caroline represents one of Leesville’s best and most bright students because of her dedication to academic achievement despite her illness. Every day, when I drop my backpack on the kitchen floor and nap, she is either working on homework assignments or studying.
In addition to homework, Bou spends her time in speech therapy reciting words with similar sounds in order to improve her speech. Time in class is invaluable to my sister as she truly has a passion for learning.
I feel as though many honors students take their success for granted, as I hear daily complaints about petty, unimportant things “ruining” their lives. They obviously do not take into consideration that it can take years for people with disabilities like my sister to re-learn how to correctly grasp a pencil. At one time, Caroline had an aid to write notes for her when she began taking classes at Leesville, but the aid could not write things as fast as my sister understood the content in her classes, now she has adaptive technology.
Caroline was always an honor student, so despite her illness, she was resolute in reclaiming her academic aspirations. Bou’s tenacity has guided her through academic courses at Leesville with relative ease, as she has already faced situations unimaginable to most teens.
I admire the courage it takes Caroline to get up every day with a great attitude. She has emerged from the dark cocoon of her illness into a social butterfly, daring to express herself in ways I aspire to.
Caroline is my inspiration because no matter how down I feel in life, I can look at my best friend and remember all that she has overcome, knowing that as sisters, we will always support each other throughout all our challenges.
Such a sweet and inspiring story–there is nothing like a sister!