The Best Sister
…What makes a good sister?
In the womb, Olivia and Hailey Scheinman formed to the thump of the same heartbeat. Cells divided and organs sprouted, skin and hair knitted together while fluids swirled. Their mother rocked them with her every step.
For reasons no one knows, something didn’t proceed normally for Olivia. During the first trimester, her brain didn’t form the way it should, the way her twin sister’s did.
Her body shook with seizures shortly after birth. At first, doctors diagnosed her with Ohtahara Syndrome, a neurological condition that comes with a high incidence of infantile death. Later, they reassessed, calling what she has multifocal partial epilepsy and cerebral palsy. She has undergone two major brain surgeries and takes a laundry list of drugs to control what Hailey calls “the shakies.”
For seven years, life has relentlessly pulled Hailey and Olivia apart — milestone by milestone.
Hailey walked at 11 months, talked at 15 months, kicked her first soccer ball at 5. At 7, Olivia cannot stand and struggles to hold her head up. She smiles when she’s happy, but she cannot say it. For years, Olivia’s progress has been measured hour by hour, with each letter “S” her mother scribbles on calendars when she has a seizure.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a scenario in which the trajectory of the sisters’ lives simply continues to diverge. But something in Hailey has resisted that. She seems determined not to lose her grip on the being to whom she is closest in the world. Her mom thinks that because of Hailey’s efforts, the sisters are closer now than ever.
What makes a good sister?
Hailey Scheinman doesn’t have the answer. She’s 7.
Hailey Scheinman is the answer…
Special thanks to Hailey, Olivia, Allison and Jon Scheinman for allowing us into their lives for months to tell the story of a remarkable bond between sisters. And also, thanks to Bruce Moyer for a great edit on the photos and to designer extraordinaire Terry Chapman who told my this week that her role is to be a conduit for other people’s work and the most important thing she knows is how to get out of the way of good photos. The pages showing how it ran in today’s Tampa Bay Times are below.