WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Long before WUSA9's Ellen Bryan was giving you alternate traffic routes, she was navigating a difficult situation in her own life -- one that began 16 years ago and changed her life forever.
"I think I grew up in that moment…in that instant I became much older than 11," Bryan explained.
Like many little sisters Bryan dreamed of becoming like her older sister Christina who had just turned 17 and was going into her senior year of high school.
"She had it all… she was third in her class. She was the smartest of all of us sisters. She could sing. She was in the choir. She could play golf," Bryan remembers.
Christina's love of golf turned into a summer job on a golf course.
June 13, 2000 started off like any other day for Christina. A thunderstorm passing through their hometown of Celina, Ohio forced everyone indoors. Christina waited until the rain stopped to finish her end-the-day tasking picking up of metal golf stands.
"So Christina had gone back outside after the storm had passed through, was bending over picking up one of those stands when a bolt of lightning came back from the storm and hit her," Bryan said.
The bolt of lightning was so strong it made a three foot hole right next to where Christina was standing and it stopped her heart.
Christina went into cardiac arrest and the oxygen supply to her brain stopped for 10 minutes before paramedics got to her.
Bryan was with her mom when she got the call.
"I remember the day so vividly," Bryan said.
"We were speeding and running through stop signs and I remember asking her… I’m 11 years old and I remember asking, can people die from this?"
Bryan said she didn't know what a lighting strike could do to someone.
Christina spent the next two years in a hospital and her family was by her side the whole time.
"I think that’s why my faith has always been so important to me throughout my life because at the moment you just put it in God’s hands and you do the best with the situation you’ve been given."
Christina survived but suffered severe brain injuries. The past 16 years have been a test of setbacks, heartache, triumph and victory.
"She has limited mobility. She hasn’t been able to talk since like make a full sentence. She can smile and laugh now. She nods her head yes and no."
"You know the Tim McGraw song: Just to see you smile. It was really popular and came out then and my mom and I still sing it to this day because the first time we saw Christina smile was maybe a year later," Bryan said.
"And we’ll do anything to see her smile because we didn’t see her smile for so long."
That's why you often see Bryan smile. She is grateful for the life she has and the life-changing impact her sister has already made.
"She’s touched more lives living the life she has than I will ever touch," Bryan explains.
"You look at Christina and she still smiles at you and she’s still happy about life and then you think okay…my worries are… we have today. Let’s just appreciate today."
Bryan often goes to schools to talk about lightning safety and she has worked with NOAA for years as a member of their lighting safety team.