Family finds signs of hope in Duluth teen's slow recovery from auto accidentThirteen-year-old Everett Bergren was critically injured in the traffic accident that took the life of his grandmother, Paula Bergren, on Jan. 19.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
If he were able to communicate, Everett Bergren probably would tell people not to worry about him, and he’d try to make them smile.
“He’s a class clown at school, and he’s always out to make people laugh,” said his mom, Trista Turnbull, on Friday. “He doesn’t like to have anybody feel bad.”
Turnbull was talking from Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center, where her son has been since being critically injured in the traffic accident that took the life of his grandmother, Paula Bergren, on Jan. 19. The 13-year-old lives in West Duluth with his mom and two of his three sisters, but he had stayed overnight with his grandmother in the Woodland neighborhood.
Hearing about snow in the forecast, he had wanted to be at his grandmother’s to shovel for her that morning. She was taking him to Jedlicka Middle School in Proctor, where Everett is in seventh grade, when Hawk Patrick Edwards, 19, was allegedly driving drunk and slammed into their vehicle on Woodland Avenue.
Edward Everett — he goes by his middle name — was upgraded from critical to serious condition on Friday, Essentia Health spokeswoman Sara Peterson said.
Turnbull said she has been encouraged by signs of improvement in recent days.
“He squeezes my hand and he won’t let go, and he was feeling my face,” said Turnbull, 31. “He’s there, definitely. He’s just kind of in and out.”
Turnbull and Everett’s aunt, Shelley Nicholson, who came up from her home in Texas after the accident, said the boy’s left eye is open, and he appears to understand what is said to him.
A constant ally in Everett’s fight for life is the oldest of his three younger sisters, Liberty “Libby” Bergren, a 10-year-old who attends fourth grade at Hermantown Middle School.
“She’s here every day holding his hand, rubbing his feet, putting lotion on him,” Turnbull said. “She’s been an extraordinary sister. She’s sticking right by his side through this whole thing.”
Everett is fiercely devoted to Libby, family members say.
“Libby is his life,” Nicholson said. “Libby is his absolute best friend. He breathes for Libby. If Libby were lying in this bed we’d have a problem because he would never leave.”
Turnbull agreed. “They really love each other a lot, and Everett protects her,” she said. “It’s almost like he’s a dad to her in some ways.”
Everyone who knows Everett talks about his love of the outdoors.
“He loves the outdoors and going fishing and camping,” said MaKenzie Johnson, guidance counselor at Jedlicka Middle School. “He’s a northern Minnesota boy.”
Assistant Principal Diane Morin said Everett has “a great ability to tell stories,” particularly about his outdoor adventures.
Nicholson said Everett wants to be a game warden when he grows up.
Another aunt, JoDell Wilson, said Everett’s favorite color is green, and his favorite holiday is St. Patrick’s Day. That’s part of the reason a fundraiser to help the family with expenses has been scheduled for March 17, she said.
Everett probably would prefer helping with a fundraiser to being the beneficiary.
“He’s really helpful and sweet,” Johnson said. “He would help anybody that needed help.”
Counselors at Proctor and Hermantown schools have worked together to provide grief counseling and support for students affected by the tragedy.
“I think it’s hit both the students and staff equally hard, because it’s a tragic accident,” Johnson said. “We’re a tightly knit community here, so anything that happens to one of our own is tough for all of us.”
Everett attended Hermantown schools through fourth grade. Kerry Juntunen, principal of Hermantown Middle School, which includes grades 4-8, was dean of students when Everett was a fourth-grader.
“He was a very polite little guy,” Juntunen said. “He had bright blue eyes and a smile on his face.”
Turnbull, who has spent every night except one at the hospital since the accident, said the first four days were a blur. But she is feeling more optimistic now, and even managed a giggle when she described Everett as “a little mountain man.”
“He’s an awesome kid,” she said. “If anybody was going to make it through this I know it would be him. And he’s pulling through.”