The lights and darks and the patched pieces sewn into Eldon’s Quilt represent good days, bad days, making the most of what’s at hand and piecing together what is available. That’s the story behind Eldon Korson, who today is a first-year student at Alma College, studying English with plans to someday teach at a university.
Two years ago, Eldon was in the hospital while his Rockford High School class of 2007 was graduating. His doctors told his family that he would never awake from the coma he was in, and if he did, he’d be a “vegetable.”
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you no,” said Eldon’s mother, Cheryl. “If we listened to what every doctor was telling us, we would have had no hope. They said he’s not waking up. He’s a vegetable. He will never walk and talk again.”
Eldon’s determination and his remarkable recovery inspire his family. His grandmother, Pat, brags about him to her quilting class at Smith Owen Sewing Center. When Polish-born Edyta Sitar, quilt designer, heard about Eldon’s story, she was inspired, too. She spent six months thinking about how Eldon fought his way back from near death. She thought about how he almost died from pneumonia more than once while in a coma, and the difficult rehabilitation he faced when he did wake up. The two met for the first time Saturday, December 5, and Sitar told Eldon how his story affected her.
“I thought about you so much when I was working on this,” she said to Eldon of the beautiful and intricate creation she sewed in his honor. “I thought you would enjoy all the difficult pieces I used. I used dark and light in the pattern, because I know there are good days and bad days. I put different pieces together in the design. I thought of you while I was building it and holding it together. You were my inspiration.”
The quilt is simple in some ways. There are only two basic shapes, triangles and squares. It is also incredibly complex, with pieces sewn from bits and odd lots. That speaks of Eldon’s journey, too. “When you are confronted with trials and pressures, you can either break or be like a diamond,” Eldon said.
Eldon suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2007 when he was 17. Just two years later, he walks with a cane but is enjoying his first year at Alma. At the sewing center, he signed his autograph on the quilt patterns of some of his grandmother’s classmates. “He is a quilt celebrity,” one quilter said.
The quilt has already inspired others, too. Sitar has taken it across the country where the story and the piece itself has drawn attention. “People said, ‘Oh look at that, look at Eldon’,” Sitar said of responses she heard while displaying the piece. “Other people have made this quilt now, too.”
Cheryl said the family never gave up hope that Eldon would overcome his devastating injuries. “We had people all over the world praying for him,” she said. Friends went on a missionary trip to Rome and prayed for Eldon there.
“It sounds weird, but I could feel it,” Cheryl said. “I could feel the prayers. I know Eldon’s recovery is not due to us. That was God working.”
Sitar has the quilt on the road, spreading the story of hope and perseverance.