Celebrating My Sister: Why She is My Hero + Her Birthday

Hello readers, I hope you’ve been having a good week. It’s cooled off quite a bit here, which has made for a nice reprieve with humidity.

Today (Thursday) is National Girlfriends Day, which has unknown origins, but it’s a day to celebrate our female friendships. I woke up today to this adorable collage Jennifer texted me. I just had to share:

BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I'm on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii.

BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I’m on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii.

What a sweet way to start the day! ❤

It was the second holiday for us in a week. Last weekend, we had a low-key but fun celebration for Jennifer’s birthday. We went out to our favorite soup-and-salad buffet, Sweet Tomatoes.

Never too old to be a princess. A collage of various gifts she received for her birthday.

Never too old to be a princess. A collage of some of the gifts Jennifer received for her birthday.

She was really touched at the thoughtfulness of her gifts this year, both from family and friends. Can you tell she likes pink? And yes, you can see I am not the only one in the family to have a fancy for most things British.

Keeping with the princess and British theme, I couldn’t resist this royal candle set for Jennifer’s cake. I was initially worried, but ultimately impressed; the flames created a majestic glow, more royal celebration than horrific London Fire. One can never be sure when melting wax shapes, but Hobby Lobby came through, as usual.

A cake worthy of a princess

A cake worthy of a princess

Besides a duo of no-chip manicure vouchers (another of our girly obsessions), a gift not pictured here from me was an essay I wrote about Jennifer. Last week, I participated in David Litwack‘s whirlwind blog tour for Novel Publicity. (Check out the recent posts/archives if you missed the review, interview, etc.). Litwack’s culminating event was asking people to share their stories about everyday heroes. I immediately thought of my sister, who was crucial in my recovery from my traumatic brain injury. This is the story of a teenager who became a woman in a matter of days, sacrificing everything to save someone she loved more than life itself. Because of her efforts, I’m able to write this and everything else I want, hopefully helping other people someday, if I haven’t already. We’re able to pursue our dreams together, and we’re closer than ever. So in honor of Jennifer’s birthday, National Girlfriends Day, and my hero, I’d like to share this piece with you.

Why My Sister is My Hero
By: Amanda K. Fowler

When I was 19, I almost died in a car accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury. But this story isn’t about me: it’s about my sister, who saved me in more ways than she’ll ever know.

Even though the brain surgeon did a great job, he was honest when he told my family I had a less than 5 percent chance at survival. My family was devastated, but they pulled together and gave me all their love and strength.

My younger sister, Jennifer, and I have been best friends since the day she was born—practically identical twins, finishing each other’s sentences, dressing and looking the same without meaning to. We shared everything, but I was slipping away from this world. The only thing I responded to in my coma before surgery was her singing to me: I squeezed her hand.

To this day, I can’t imagine what it was like for her, at 17 years old, to almost lose the person who’d shared every moment of her life, one of the people she loved most in the world. It would have been easy to take a back seat, to leave responsibility for my needs to the doctors and nurses, to focus on school and other things normal seventeen-year-olds care about. But that’s not what heroes do, is it?

Instead, she spent every moment outside of school at the hospital, barely sleeping. She rushed to my side when she got the call I was out of the coma, translating my rapid half–made-up sign language from our childhood to everyone else. She was my only line of communication with the world until I could begin speaking again, weeks later. And because I couldn’t move or see, she did everything for me, including climbing into the hospital bed to tweeze my eyebrows when I was feeling unkempt.

She ate dinner out of a Ziploc bag on the floor in the kitchen by herself after visiting hours ended, on nights when my parents stayed overnight with me. When it came to my food, she asked the nurses to teach her how to use the feeding tube so she could reconnect it when I needed it, as well as how to feed me ice chips when I was allowed. She wore neon shirts to the hospital to try to help me remember things day-to-day. She flapped her hand like a butterfly around me to help my eyes focus again.

But she didn’t stop helping me after I got done with the hospital. It was miraculous how much I had recovered—I could walk a little, eat on my own, speak—but there was so much more that I needed, things a hospital couldn’t fix. Things only a sister could do.

She told me I was beautiful when half of my head was shaved, my eyes were crossed, and my body was emaciated. She proved it to me when she styled my hair, picked out my clothes, gave me her cool sunglasses, and took pictures of me the way she saw me. She put a napkin in her own glasses so I wouldn’t feel alone when people stared at my eye patch, right after she yelled at them for being insensitive. She taught me to laugh when I got food in her hair, when I said something the wrong way; she taught me not to be ashamed, only proud of how hard I was trying and how truly lovable I was.

Jennifer went with me to college; it was her first year and my restart of my second. She kept helping me and encouraging me to blossom. And blossom we both did.

Now, seven years later, I’m pretty much fully recovered, and I’m following my dreams as a writer. We both graduated, and I now have my M.A. in Writing & Publishing, too. But most importantly, I still have my sister, my best friend. We are back to finishing each other’s sentences and being equally helpful to each other (or so I like to think). I couldn’t have recovered without her. My sister wasn’t a normal seventeen-year-old when I had my traumatic brain injury; she was my hero, and she always will be.

I love you, Jennifer. ❤

Jennifer and me at a Japanese restaurant, at a belated celebration of my 20th birthday just after coming home from the hospital.

Jennifer and me at a Japanese restaurant, at a belated celebration of my 20th birthday just after coming home from the hospital.

8 thoughts on “Celebrating My Sister: Why She is My Hero + Her Birthday

  1. Wow – what am amazing story and one that demonstrates not only courage on multiple fronts from you and your sister but a true bond of love and friendship that is unshakeable!


  2. Pingback: Top Ten: Friends’ Favorite Scary Stories | Jelly-Side Up

  3. Reblogged this on Jelly-Side Up and commented:

    Happy Sister’s Day to my very best friend since the day when she was born. I’m just as excited to celebrate her today as I was her first day in this world, when I ran down the hallway in my ducky slippers, holding a balloon. I may not have those slippers anymore, but the bond I still have with my sister is stronger than I could ever have imagined. In honor of Sister’s Day, I’m reblogging this post about why she is my hero and what she means to me (the good mushy stuff is after all the birthday pictures, but feel free to drool over her cake, if you like).


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