Chelsea White loves Justin Bieber. She is going to her second Bieber concert with her mother this May. She has a poster of him in her room and countless pictures of him on her iPad.
Music is one of her favorite things. She also loves seeing her teachers in school whether in her History of Rock and Roll class with Mr. Vanada or in algebra class. She also loves to text and write poetry.
She has an amazing relationship with her brother, Dustin, also known as D Dog to Chelsea. He always manages to make her smile.
“Chelsea’s one of a kind. She just lights up a room,” Rachael Patterson, one of Chelsea’s advisers who had been with her throughout her high school career, said. “Anyone who meets her instantly gets attached.”
The first thing most people notice about her is her brilliant smile, not her powerchair.
In her freshman year, she was a distinguished honor student who was looking forward to her first high school homecoming dance.
Then, Chelsea White was involved in an ATV accident on November 12, 2009. She survived the crash in a vegetative state with a tracheostomy to help her breathe. She was in a coma after the accident. Her movement was very restricted. She only had a 5% chance of surviving the weekend after the accident.
Chelsea was unresponsive in the coma. She remained in York Hospital until January 2010, and then she was transferred to Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital. While in Hershey, her parents, Carla and Donald White, were taught to take care of her, including how to use her feeding tube and trach tube.
Chelsea was finally brought home in February. She remained in a vegetative state until she had her first smile in July. It took seven months for Chelsea to be able to smile, which only added to its beauty, according to Mrs. White. She also learned how to communicate by blinking yes or no during this time.
With the help of multiple surgeries on her hands and feet, Chelsea gained more control of her movements. Operations on her feet positioned them so that she could walk. A surgery on her left hand released her tendons so that she can write and communicate on her iPad. Chelsea’s determination was turning into recovery.
The joy of Chelsea’s progress was shadowed by another tragedy. Chelsea’s father passed away on October 27, 2012. Chelsea was extremely close to her father, who was a large contributor to her recovery.
“Her dad could get her to do things no one, not even therapists, could,” Mrs. White said.
While there were bumps in Chelsea’s road to recovery, nothing was able to shake her optimism. Throughout the entire process, Chelsea has been the rock for her family.
Now, Chelsea is at the end of her last year at Red Lion High School. She has made great strides during her education here, such as learning how to use a gait trainer, and even a bicycle, to zoom around the halls. She is improving her handwriting skills by writing poetry. She can even communicate by typing into her iPad, which will speak for her.
“She’s improved from vegetative state to now,” Mrs. White said. “It is like night and day.”
Despite all of her progress, Chelsea still has more things to work on. The dilemma is how to continue Chelsea’s improvement without the support system at the high school.
“I’m still working through that. It’s a very, very scary thing,” Mrs. White said. “She is never leaving me if I have anything to do with it.”
Leaving school most likely means having Chelsea at home more often. Unfortunately, this could prove to be difficult due to the Whites’ house situation. They are in need of improvements to accommodate Chelsea.
“For our home to be a better, safer place for Chelsea, we would like to have a chair lift on the steps to the basement, an accessible bathroom in the basement with some support of hydrotherapy, basement organized and geared toward therapies, and we should have a second exit upstairs which is wheelchair accessible,” Mrs. White said.
Regardless of where Chelsea ends up after her high school career, Mrs. White is determined to continue Chelsea’s progress. Hope is not lost, especially not to Chelsea and her mother.
“I am not going to let her regress. We will find people or a place to keep her moving forward,” Mrs. White said.
While Chelsea’s situation is not perfect, Mrs. White is still thankful for everything that she has. She is thankful that Chelsea is still with her. She is thankful that Chelsea refuses to succumb to the difficulties of her condition. Most of all, Mrs. White is thankful for the help and support of the community.
“Chelsea, my family, and I would like to say a big “thank you” to the Red Lion school district, LIU, teachers, Lion Aquatic, Zion church members, Dentsply Sirona family, friends, immediate family who have shown so much kindness and compassion since our life changed on November 12, 2009,” Mrs. White said.
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