SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - Thousands of people from around the world are sending their best wishes and prayers to a Sun Prairie family following a fluke accident that severely injured their 7-year-old daughter.
Eva Love Sherbondy is fighting against the odds to get better in an intensive care unit. She fell off a golf cart in late August and hit her head hard, leading to emergency surgery and severe inflammation.
Dugan Sherbondy, Eva's father, said her name means "life," and she exemplifies that as a little girl full of energy and joy. He said that's what makes seeing her in her current condition that much harder.
"There have been indescribably difficult moments," he said, adding that more than that, the experience has been "uncharted," and he and his wife, Lindsay, have relied heavily on their faith throughout this process. "It's felt even when there are tears and extremely difficult moments or conversations or embraces, there's something deep down, it's like, we're still standing."
According to Sherbondy, doctors said Eva will likely remain in a vegetative state or have severe brain damage for the rest of her life, but he and what's become known as "Eva's Army" are holding out hope for a recovery.
"Despite the earthly, medical, factual, logical perspective, we are just believing there's a very significant miracle coming," Sherbondy said.
With all that's said about Eva, it's not hard to imagine she's a miracle herself.
"She is always laughing. You could hear her laugh from two football fields away," Sherbondy said. "She just brings life wherever she goes."
"Eva is an absolute joy," said Jon McNary, the lead pastor at the Heartland Church of Sun Prairie. He and his family are close with Eva's family. His daughter is good friends with Eva, and he's best friends with Sherbonody, who is also a teaching pastor at the church.
"Having an 8-year-old daughter, my heart breaks for them, but I can't even begin to imagine what it's like," McNary said.
Despite Eva's prognosis, Sherbondy said there have been small miracles, like when doctors took out her breathing tube.
"A doctor told us later out team was 99.9% sure she wouldn't be able to breathe on her own, and she did immediately," he said.
The other miracles extend well beyond the hospital room.
"Eva's Army has been an incredible thing," McNary said. "What started with our church family here quickly grew to people all across the country, and even world."
He said through Sherbondy's posts on social media, Eva's story has reached people in all 50 states and 60 countries of all religious backgrounds, drawing words of support and prayers from people such as December Kauffman in Pittsburgh, who is using the MyIntent online store to make "Eva Love" bracelets for more than 100 people from across the country.
"We're complete strangers," Kauffman said. "It's been a beautiful and humbling thing to be part of this, even in such a small way."
"Some of the most meaningful messages I've gotten have been from people who don't worship the same God as me," Sherbondy said. "There's this beautiful unity of people saying, 'We support you and support your girl.' That means a great deal to me."
Wherever it comes from, Eva's Army has faith in the power of prayer.
"Something wonderful does happen when we pray … I absolutely think a miracle is possible," McNary said. "I can't wait to see Eva make a full recovery."
Friends have set up a GoFundMe page found here for the Sherbondys' medical expenses, as well. Sherbondy said they'd like to give back a portion in the form of scholarships for children whose families who can't afford hospital care.
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