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My Life-Changing Sibling Moment


March 2, 2017
Topics: Riley Kid Story, Riley Champions



matt blog image
Matt and Bella Simons, Carmel, Ind.

My heart pounded with an intensity I had never felt before, throbbing with enough strength to push it out of my chest. My hands shook as I considered what I might see beyond the door—the possibilities terrified me. As thoughts of my sister raced through my mind, I gathered my courage and entered the room.

“Do I look okay? I feel like a mess.”
“Bella, you look beautiful.”

Walking into the hospital earlier that morning, I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to see my sister smiling and laughing with family over inside jokes, but that felt too optimistic. Haunted by images from the post-op room the night before, I had difficulty picturing anything good happening by the time I arrived.

Never had I felt as powerless as the moment when I first saw my sister after her operation. The image of her lying on the cot was unforgettable: tubes snaked across her body covered by several layers of blankets and bandages. Her head was wrapped in a turban of white cloth and her skin was as pallid as the bandages themselves. It was like seeing my sister’s ghost. I wanted to promise her that everything was going to be alright, but that would have felt like a lie; nothing was certain. All I could do was rub her foot to comfort her.

Everything felt sudden—from the diagnosis to the operation—but there was nothing I could do to make life stop moving. It was as though all of the events were happening at once, and I was struggling to keep pace with them. The day before my sister underwent her operation, my mom called to tell me the news: my sister had been diagnosed with two brain tumors and required immediate surgery.

After that conversation, my sense of time became paradoxically distorted. Everything blurred into a single moment, yet it felt like I had spent years waiting to talk to my sister. Seeing her for the first time since her operation, I started to cry. Before stepping into her hospital room, I had pictured her as the patient I saw the night before: an embodiment of pain. The person in the hospital cot, however, was the little sister I had known my entire life. Smiling and laughing with family, she radiated the joy of youth. The fact that she was alive despite all of the hardship she had endured filled me with encouragement.

As painful as the experiences from those twenty four hours were, they changed me in a way no other obstacle could. Without those extreme circumstances, I would never have become as close with my sister as I am now. Seeing her on the brink of death made me recognize the importance of family and forced me to evolve as a brother. As I entered the hospital room that morning, I took my first steps as an adult—not because of my actions, but my change in perspective.


Matt Simons

Matt Simons is the older brother of 2017 Riley Champion Bella Simons. He is a senior at Carmel High School and will be attending Columbia University next fall.


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