Marion Brainard said she was nervous to see her big sister, India, after India spent 57 days in a hospital more than 2,000 miles away to undergo a painful surgery.
But as soon as they saw each other, it was magic.
“When she saw her, she went running up,” their father, Donnie Brainard, 45, of New Mexico, told ABCNews.com. “India got big tears in her eyes. She calls her 'Sissy' and said ‘Sissy, Sissy, Sissy’ over and over again in a real high-pitched voice.”
India, 15, has cerebral palsy and was hospitalized in Boston to undergo dual hip replacement and femur re-alignment surgery, Brainard said. Her legs and one of her arms are paralyzed, but she goes to school, has a boyfriend and loves to hang out with her little sister, Marion, who is 13.
India was supposed to be home from the hospital within three weeks, but wound up staying nearly three times that long because she wasn’t healing properly, Brainard said. The surgery and its aftermath were painful, and India stopped eating and was diagnosed with a “failure to thrive.”
Brainard decided to keep Marion home in New Mexico during the surgery so she could continue with school. They Skyped regularly, but Marion never saw the pain India was in.
The sisters have grown up “extremely” close, Brainard said. When India needs help stretching out her atrophied limbs, Marion is quick to step in and never complains. When kids at school tease India, Marion defends her.
But when India is being grumpy or mean, “Marion will have none of it,” Brainard said. She treats her older sister like any other older sister, so they’re not immune from a healthy arguing session.
They love to listen to music, look at boys and play tricks on people –- like putting salt in their father’s drink. Or really anyone’s drink. They’re not picky about their victims, Brainard said.
“They’ll laugh so hard, tears will come out of their eyes,” Brainard said. “Marion has to do it, but India will egg her on. ... That means Daddy is often very cautious.”
When India was still in Boston, doctors decided to send her home to Albuquerque in hopes that she would start eating on her own again, but she didn’t. They were back in the hospital in a matter of days.
But things are looking up for India. Her boyfriend is coming to visit her, and she got to watch "Matilda" with her sister, who scooted into the hospital bed with her for a cuddle.
“She’s making slow progress, that’s the most important thing,” Brainard said. “She’s smiling.”