Miracles Happen
by Brooke and Jean Ellison
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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In 1991, 11 year-old Brooke Ellison was hit by a car while walking home from her first day at junior-high school. Even with immediate medical care, her original prognosis was grim with no guarantee of survival.

In an instant, Brooke's life changed forever. At the same time, the family would never be the same. Ed or Jean Ellison traded shifts standing vigil by their middle child's bedside. Their 13 year-old daughter and 9 year-old son worried and waited at home.

It was eventually determined that Brooke was a quadriplegic with significant injuries. The road to recovery was a long one, and the definition of getting back to normal was unclear.

Miracles Happen is Brooke's story, told from the day of impact up to her graduation with honors from Harvard. Mother Jean Ellison co-authors the book, describing her side of the journey. Brooke needs constant care, and Jean has been her round-the-clock companion.

The story moves from the local hospital, to a rehabilitation hospital, to the Ellison home and finally to Harvard. At each location major adjustments had to be made to accommodate Brooke and the equipment necessary for her survival.

Brooke and Jean discuss several circumstances of their new life path. Friends, family and the public had various reactions. The Ellison's extended family and friends developed a major support system to help any way they could, including remodeling Ed and Jean's home to accommodate a wheelchair. Brooke's school friends had trouble with the different changes. Brooke couldn't understand why everyone thought so much had changed. She was still the same person with the same heart.

After Brooke left her house for college, she found countless physical barriers to wheelchair access. It would be easy to use her book as a soapbox for disabled persons' rights. Instead Brooke describes her own hurdles without pity or sermon.

This is an optimistic story filled with hope. Credit goes to Brooke for her positive outlook. Aside from occasional sadness, there's no hint of a Why Me?, Poor Me or It's a Cruel World tone. With a title like Miracles Happen, her message is well-received and her accomplishments inspiring.

Miracles Happen is told in a casual manner. It reads more like a conversation over coffee rather than a reconstruction of life events. There are some hokey scenes that seem a little too sweet to be realistic. Then again, the Ellisons are probably less dysfunctional than most families.

Brooke's story never slows down. In fact, is moves so fast that some scenes are cut short. Brooke talks about the thrill of being asked to the college formal, yet gives no details about the actual event. I bet it didn't occur to Brooke that her life was interesting and readers would want to know more about her activities.

Miracles Happen details six years in the life of one special lady. This is not a tragic story. Brooke Ellison's unique outlook on life is as extraordinary as the hurdles she had to overcome to achieve her dreams. There is no pity party here. No eye-opening sermon on the barriers faced by disabled persons. As amazing as the journey seems, with Harvard honors no less, Brooke just wants to explain she's just like you and me.

Learn more about The Brooke Ellison Story, now a television movie.

Learn more about the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.