All for the Love of Hollis Hawthorne

Hollis Hawthorne, Bay Area, 2008. (Photo by Alicia Sanguiliano, I think? If not, just let me know and I’ll update.)

Incredible, joyful news: Hollis Hawthorne has fully emerged from her coma.

Many of you will recall an urgent plea that went up on Coilhouse exactly a year ago, to the day, titled Performer/Cyclist Hollis Hawthorne Needs Our Help. Hollis, a lion-hearted young woman from the bay area performing arts/activist community, was traveling through India by motorcycle with her beau, Harrison, when tragedy struck– a driving accident left her bleeding out from severe head trauma in the middle of a busy road while Harrison frantically performed CPR to keep her alive. Twenty minutes passed before some good Samaritans stopped to pick them up and drove her to a hospital.

Hollis was in a vegetative state, thousands of miles from home and in dire need of highly specialized medical care– care unavailable to her in Chennai. Time was of the essence, but Hollis’ mother (who had rushed to her side) was told that they would have to pay $150,000 up front for medical transport from India to the States– an impossibly huge sum of money. As an uninsured American traveling abroad, Hollis was stranded.

“For the Love of Hollis” benefit in Portland, March 2009. Photo by Brooke Dillon.

Horrified word quickly spread online. If the internet were truly as cynical or callous a place as they say, people could have easily have dismissed Hollis for making a “reckless” choice to travel without insurance. But hey, guess what? Humanity prevailed. Turns out there really is something to this idea of a global tribe! Thousands of donations began pouring in from all over the world for this feisty, foundering girl we could all relate to. A dollar here, ten dollars there, it quickly added up. Across the country, massive benefits were held by concerned friends and strangers alike– auctions and raffles and kissing booths, dance performances, marching band processions, puppet shows. It was an incalculably huge and steady outpouring of support coming from every direction, “for Hollis, the doer, the mover, the shaker, the dancer, the muse, the generous, the dumpster queen, the friend.”

Meanwhile, her chart was reviewed and accepted by Stanford Medical–one of the best hospitals in the world– as a charity case. After three long, anxious weeks, $100k was raised. Hollis was able to return to California in a discount air ambulance. Her community rejoiced and folks flocked to visit Hollis at her bedside, to talk and cuddle, trying to coax her back from oblivion. But her fight, and her kin’s 24-7 vigil at her side, was only beginning. On March 24, 2009, Harrison wrote:

What does it mean to be in a coma? What does it mean to wake up? What defines consciousness? Where are the lines between ‘coma’, ‘persistent vegetative state’, ‘minimally conscious’ and ‘fully conscious’?  Hollis waxes and wanes between these and nobody can really say what’s going on behind the surface of her eyes.  I do know this; Hollis is beating all the odds.

Ever since the story broke, I’ve been checking in on Hollis’ progress via Friends of Hollis Hawthorne and Help Holli Heal. The latter is a site updated regularly by Hollis’ devoted mother, Diane, who has stayed with her daughter through this entire harrowing post-accident ordeal, sleeping on a cot beside her, holding her hand in the dark. Diane’s entries are rarely anything less than three-hanky tearjerkers! But her tone has remained steadfastly hopeful.

Hollis, healing up. (Photos via The Hindu, Eliza S., Angela Mae, Diane Allison.)

Eventually, Hollis was moved from Stanford to a rehab facility near Diane’s home in Nashville, TN. Loyal friends still visit as often as they can. Continuing benefits to help pay her overwhelming medical bills have been held as recently as last month. (If you want to donate, click here.) With the help of doctors, healers, medications and physical therapy, Hollis has shown slow but steady improvements these past few months. She has been fighting very, very hard.

There is so much love surrounding this girl. So many people –family and friends and strangers alike– are rooting for her. Why? Because any number of us could just as easily have wound up in a similarly nightmarish predicament, had our luck been different. Because a situation like hers reminds us just how easy it is to give, and to care. Because all of us weirdos, us wanderers, we’re in this together. Because she is luminous and we cannot afford to lose her:

Photo by Kyle Hailey.

And now, finally, she is waking up. Harrison, who visited her last week, just posted this update:

HOLLIS IS NOT AT ALL IN A COMA ANYMORE!!! Yes! You read that correctly! Scream, shout, jump up and down! Have a shot! Dance! Kiss somebody! It’s the real deal, seen it with mine own two eyes! She is awake and talking and present and brilliant and amazing!

Welcome back, Hollis. Keep fighting, keep healing, keep glowing. You still have an army at your back.

20 Responses to “All for the Love of Hollis Hawthorne”

  1. Carl Caputo Says:

    Very sweet, wonderful news. Thanks for this!

  2. Vivacious G Says:

    Wow, that made me teary! I’m so glad for her. I was moved to making a donation when that happened, though I didn’t know anything about her. I’m glad others were too. Score for humanity!

  3. Kevin Says:

    Wonderful beyond belief.

  4. Angela Hunt Says:

    I’m sitting here, crying my eyes out. This is the best news.

  5. Zoetica Says:

    I screeched with excitement when I heard, and I don’t know Hollis personally.

    You’re absolutely right about the way her story affected people on a global scale -if the facts surrounding her treatment and recovery don’t laugh in the face of skepticism and nay-saying, I don’t know what could.

  6. whittles Says:

    Thanks for posting about this, Mere. I’ve had intermittent tears of joy over the lat couple days over this. With so much desperate sad shit happening in the world, this was the kind of hope spark I/we need.

  7. Chris Lowrance Says:

    I’m sure there are those who would criticize our joy over this because of what privileges Hollis does enjoy. That’s she was lucky enough to be American, white, pretty, to have an amazing network of devoted friends. They’d be right to say someone in a similar situation, sans even a few of those advantages, might not of received the massive outpouring of sympathy and aid Hollis has. But they’d be wrong in saying this isn’t an amazing example of what human sympathy can accomplish when not paralyzed by thoughts like “it’s only one person.”

    If anything, this just makes me all the more inspired to fight to help those in even worse situations. Hollis’ case is proof of what a global effort can accomplish.

  8. Michelle Says:

    Yay for stories like this with happy endings! That made me tear up.

    ^Chris, I think in this case she might have been luckier to not be American! (meaning, to be from a country where her family wouldn’t have to pay 150k up front) Either way, I’m very very glad she’s okay.

  9. Arcko Says:

    Wow! I was wondering what had become of her after that post last year. I hope the outpouring of sympathies and cash donations continue to flow in. She deserves to have the best in rehabilitation facilities and who knows, with a little luck, we’ll see her on stage once again.

  10. Nadya Says:


    After you covered this story last year, Mer, once in a while I checked the Friends of Hollis blog for news. Progress seemed so painfully slow. Her first word, her first laugh. And I know that recovery is still going to be a huge journey for her, but this is an incredible step. I got all teary reading this, too!

    I am so glad that she was surrounded by loved ones who never gave up on her.

  11. Shay Says:

    I’m really happy to hear your friend is doing better. Glad i (and many, many others) could help.

  12. Chris Lowrance Says:

    ^ Michelle: Yeah, good point. Caring about its citizens well-being is not America’s strong suit! But yeah, I should stress I was only trying to preempt a bit of cynicism I’ve seen come up in similar cases. Again, I think this is great myself.

  13. Marcella Says:

    How wonderful! I was wholly unfamiliar with this story before this posting but this is most uplifting thing I’ve read in some time. Thrilled for her & all waiting for this news.

  14. On Politics « Barbarianchick's Blog Says:

    […] (or anti-philosophy) that you’re left with is particularly constructive. Or accurate. People do help each other out of love. Really, they […]

  15. rickie Says:

    there is such an amazing kind of love surrounding this girl…

  16. Tertiary Says:

    That’s great news!
    I recall when it first happened, and it’s splendid to hear she’s awake after all this time. I hope the rest of her journey to health is not so long and arduous.

  17. DerelictHat Says:

    The human brain is truly amazing. Thanks for some good news and a heartening story.

  18. Eliza Says:

    Thank you for your attention to Hollis’ recovery and struggle. This is the most tear-jerking experience. I have cried more tears of joy than tear of sadness a year ago when this was all going down with my best friend and wifey. Thanks to your article and the many more like it, this has set a precedent of caring for members of our society when the goverment and insurance companies make it seem so impossible. Keep up the positive thoughts, donations, and hope. Learn from this example of generosity and apply it to others who might need a little help, where the structure of our society cannot provide for them yet.

  19. Bean Says:

    I alternated crying and laughing for about an hour after I found out. And I didn’t even properly meet the girl. Her story has moved so so many of us.Also many of my close friends are hers too, so I feel their concern and now joy.
    Hopefully I’ll get to properly meet her at some Burn event in our common future.

  20. linanda Says:

    So many thanks for this.

    While the news of Hollis’ giant step is beyond blissful, and I cried as many tears of love as anyone, she may need our support even more now than ever. The realities that are re-entering her blessed mind may be unimaginably difficult. Please send goodies to Eliza, who will be visiting her this month, for Hollis to be nurtured by as she returns. (Cds, drawings, stories, etc.)