Two lifelong friends, nearly inseparable since first grade, find themselves on different paths for the first time.
Jacob Grow and Daniel Eddelman became friends when the Grow family moved to the west side of Columbus, near where Eddelman’s family lived. Both were preparing to begin classes at Southside Elementary School.
“We didn’t know it at that time, but we actually only lived about a mile from each other,” Grow said. “We got along really well from the beginning, and we had sleepovers and stuff from the first grade.”
By second grade they were on the same baseball team, with their fathers as coaches.
Their friendship solidified when both were in advanced Academic Challenge classes for three years, beginning in the fourth grade.
“That’s when the bond got really strong because they were doing everything together,” said Kevin Grow, Jacob’s father.
Eddelman has three sisters — Grow has one sister. But neither has a brother.
So they filled that brother role for each other.
Through their years at Central Middle School and Columbus North High School, they remained best friends, competing on the same sports teams and playing in the band together.
Eddelman was also a frequent guest on the Grow family vacations.
Now their decision to pursue careers as surgeons in different specialty fields will separate them for at least six years.
In a few weeks, Grow, 27, will begin residency at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, specializing in pediatric plastic surgery.
About the same time, Eddelman, 26, will head to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago for seven years as a neurosurgical resident.
“We always knew this time would come, and we were apart for a while in college, so we’re ready for it,” Grow said.
Sheryl Grow, Jacob’s mother, said the two were always just a good fit for each other.
“Jacob was a little bit rowdier in grade school, but they kept each other on track,” she said.
Jacob Grow acknowledged that both of them were mischievous, but he had a knack for getting Eddelman into trouble with his father, Alan Eddelman.
He recalled a camping trip for Eddelman’s birthday when the two decided to play a prank on a sleeping friend, using shaving cream.
“Everything went perfect, the shaving cream into the outstretched hand, the tickling of the nose with a twig, and then he just smashed it into his own face,” Grow said.
Perfect, that is, until the friend made so much noise that Alan Eddelman woke up furious and wanted an explanation.
Eddelman, who did not want to get into trouble with his father again because of Grow’s antics, tried unsuccessfully to put the blame on his best friend.
“Jacob made me do the shaving cream trick,” Eddelman said.
Eddelman inadvertently evened the score a few years later in their senior year of high school during football practice.
Grow was a wide receiver, and Eddelman was a defensive back covering him.
“He ran a deep route, caught the ball over me and got up in my face showboating,” Eddelman said. “I gave him a little shoulder under the chin; and since he had undone his chinstrap, his helmet slipped off, and he cut his lip on his teeth.”
Grow shrugged it off and continued playing. It wasn’t until that evening when he took a closer look that he realized how badly he was injured. The cut required several stitches but did not damage their friendship.
“That was a pretty good one,” Grow now said with a laugh.
The friends expected to split up when they went to college, but fate kept them together again.
Eddelman was almost sure he would attend Indiana University, and Grow had visited DePauw University in Greencastle but was still undecided.
Neither was seriously considering Wabash College in Crawfordsville, with an enrollment of about 900 students. Both, however, were invited to attend an academic weekend and apply for the university’s prestigious Lilly Scholarship and decided to check it out.
The university awards only a few of the scholarships each year, and there were 30 finalists. So the competition was stiff.
“We thought maybe one of us, but with us being from the same school and background, we didn’t expect them to take both of us,” Eddelman said.
A few weeks later, however, both were offered the full-ride scholarship, which they called a life-changing experience. Each was pretty sure he wanted to become a doctor by this time, and the scholarship allowed them to put some money aside for medical school.
In their second year of college, they took positions as nurse’s aides at Columbus Regional Hospital. They worked in the emergency room all summer, which solidified their decision to become surgeons.
“They’ve always been independent in their thoughts about medicine,” Sheryl Grow said. “They both have very different reasons for going the way they have, but it has never been that one wanted to go into medicine because of the other.”
After four years at Wabash, where they roomed in a dorm and later in a house, they went on to medical school at Indiana University and were on different campuses for the first time.
Because of the number of students who attend IU School of Medicine, students can be enrolled in Indianapolis or at satellite campuses. Eddelman spent his first two years in Terre Haute, and Grow was in Bloomington.
“It was definitely a change,” Grow said. “We saw each other as much as we could, but those first two years of medical school are all-consuming, so we didn’t have time to miss each other.”
They shared an apartment in Indianapolis for their final two years of medical school but say the time apart has helped them prepare for the upcoming move.
Grow recently became engaged; and his fiancee, Krista Bergman of Batesville, also will be in medical residency in Kansas City. When he shopped for an engagement ring, Grow didn’t ask his mother or sister to come along; he took Eddelman.
“I knew from the beginning, I would have to share Jacob with Dan,” Bergman said.
The two plan to keep in touch but know the bond they have shared for more than 20 years will take a backseat to career obligations for the next few years.
Their different medical specialties make it unlikely that Eddelman and Grow would ever be in a medical practice together, but both say they might return to Columbus after residency.