A 17-year-old in Ireland found her vocation to work in health care, helping the disabled, after her little brother had a terrible accident that changed his life forever.
Although the siblings from Bushmills in Northern Ireland aren’t blood relatives, when Lucy McCallum first laid eyes on little Liam, it was love at first sight.
Her parents adopted Liam, who’d been fostered by Lucy’s granny. The big sister fondly remembers his big brown eyes and infectious smile.
“My mom had girls, all girls,” she told The Epoch Times. “My granny fostered children, so whenever I seen Liam, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ We just connected it straight away.”
He officially joined the family at age 2 1/2, having been fostered since the age of 2 months. “He was meant to be in our family,” Lucy said.
Liam was a normal kid who relished life. He played football with his friends, went to car shows, and loved jumping into the sea with his big sister—a vivid and “unreal” memory for Lucy.
Until tragedy struck.
She recalls Liam playing football with his friends in 2017, when she heard a big bang and got the “worst feeling in [her] stomach” as she saw Liam get struck by a car—a vision that has haunted her ever since.
“One day, I was in high school, and I was getting off the bus, and it was around five past four,” she said. “I was walking up when I see my brother get hit by the car. He flew up in the air and hit his head on the curb.
“And for me to see that, it was horrible. It felt like losing something, like my heart just dropped, because I felt like, ‘Oh my God, that’s my baby brother.’”
She rushed to get her parents and they found Liam on the ground, not moving and unconscious.
First responders arrived, and it was deemed pertinent to airlift him to the Royal Hospital in Belfast, where he would stay for the next 6 1/2 months, receiving treatment for his head, and learning to breathe on his own.
Sadly, he would not fully recover.
“For the first couple of days and the first couple of weeks, the doctors told us Liam wasn’t going to make it,” Lucy recalled. “So we thought, ‘This is our baby brother, we can’t stop fighting and we need to tell the doctors they have to keep trying.’”
Lucy said her mother prevented her from seeing Liam as she knew it would have torn her apart.
Doctors said he would never be able to eat by himself. He was hooked up to oxygen and machines that breathed for him. When they attempted to remove the machines at first, Liam failed to breathe on his own. On the second try, he started breathing alone.
Tragically, he’d suffered lasting injuries that rendered him disabled. “Liam’s brain was completely dead,” Lucy said. He couldn’t walk nor eat, at first. He suffered seizures. He became nonverbal.
Liam underwent physio and eventually got back on his feet with the help of a wheelchair. They made their home wheelchair accessible for him, and he was later able to use a walker, to the family’s shock. After coming home from the hospital, he could eat but had to be fed by family members. They learned his medications. Lucy learned to wash and dress her little brother.
But that didn’t stop young Liam loving life. Always smiling, he brought light and joy to the home.
Lucy was changed by her brother’s accident. “My mom and dad kept me strong,” she said, though she still suffered serious flashbacks at night. That moment, still with her, tore her apart—it’s something she never wanted to see.
However, Liam has inspired his big sister.
“Liam then spent a further six months in London for special treatment to help him improve things such as movement, learning and all of his physical abilities and to say I’m proud of all he has achieved would be an understatement, he is truly my hero,” Lucy told BelfastLive.
Her little brother has even led her to find her calling.
“Liam has made me want to look after people, determined people,” said Lucy, who is currently studying for her level 2 health and social care at Northern Regional College in Coleraine. She hopes to move on to level 3 next year, before going to Liverpool University to study nursing and work with disabled children.
Adds Lucy, “I have decided that working with children with special needs and disabilities is what I want to pursue a career in, as helping to care for my brother has given me something I never knew I needed and I know that this is what I want to do with my life.”