On Thursday, March 1, Sophia Salveson-at 19, a college student (at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and an aspiring actress-suffered a massive stroke that left her with little to no movement on the right side of her body and major damage to the speech and comprehension center of her brain. Taking her family and friends completely unawares, Salveson's sudden and unexpected medical dilemma sent feelings of shock, dismay and disbelief throughout the country, with its reverberations felt most resoundingly in her hometown of Nashville, where word quickly spread around town and among members of the city's music and theater communities that she had been stricken.
There were no physical signs to indicate she was prone to stroke or indeed that one was impending. She was the very picture of good health and youthful vigor, with a heart as big as the universe, to hear those people who love her so much talk about her and to respond to her life situation now.
"It was so shocking to hear this news at first," recalls Daron Bruce, who had been both mentor and teacher to "Sophie" at Hume-Fogg Academic High School. "Former students began calling and texting, wanting to know the details. When I finally got confirmation of her situation, Lisa Forbis (Hume-Fogg choral teacher) and I broke the news to the show choir. After we told them of Sophie's situation, there was a silence and a stillness in the room that is inexplicable. Lisa and I walked into her office and the students still could not speak or move. They just sat there, trying to process what just happened to someone they loved so much."
"Someone they love so much…" is a phrase that you hear over and over as you speak to people about Sophie Salveson and her family-mother Marabeth Quin (and her husband Casey) and father Paul Savleson (and his wife Angela)-who in the aftermath of that one life-altering, earth-shattering afternoon in March have come to realize that now, even more so than ever before, their darling daughter Sophie belongs to a family much bigger than themselves. As her recovery continues, Sophie Salveson has, quite easily and most definitely, become Nashville's daughter.
"We have known Sophie and her parents Marabeth Quin and Paul Salveson for almost 25 years," explains Mike Eldred, the singer/actor and Broadway veteran, who will be among the performers at next Monday night's Sophie Shines! benefit concert at 3rd and Lindsley (the June 25th event is headlined by Amy Grant and Vince Gill, and Melinda Doolittle, Mandisa, Tim Akers & The Smoking Section, Larry Carlton, Etta Britt, Chris Rodriguez, Annie Sellick and Pat Bergeson, Michael Londra and Lisa Cochran are among the performers joining Eldred onstage), one of Music City's best-known performance venues.
"Tom [Patterson, Eldred's husband] and I were both in the hospital standing by the door when Sophie was born 19 years ago. Marabeth and Paul worked with me on my very first album in 1988-Paul as an engineer and Marabeth as a singer. I have spent countless hours in the studio over the years with them both. Lifetime friends! We have been through so much together over the years."
But nothing that all the Eldreds, Pattersons, Salvesons and Quins had shared over the past quarter century could have prepared them for life after March 1: "I have never in my life seen such a positive approach to moving through a crisis as I have with the Salveson/Quin family," Eldred says, wonder in his voice. "They all decided from moment one that there was no time to worry…only press on. It's been inspiring to watch, to say the least."
After 16 days at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and some 30 days at a rehabilitation center in the Chicago area, Sophie was brought home to Nashville by her parents (aboard a big touring bus provided by friends in the Nashville music industry, who throughout contemporary times have always gathered around their coworkers, associates, friends and family to provide support in such trying times). Just two weeks ago, she underwent surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to replace the left side of her skull and her miraculous, if slow and painstaking, recovery continues. Her mother writes a blog (at www.sophiasalveson.com) in which she tells of the realities of this new and unexpected journey for her family.