Growing up here in Owensboro, Chelsea Meythaler McDonald was your typical girl next door.  She was an OHS cheerleader, an athlete, very active, and did well in school.  One morning in 2010 changed everything!

After high school she left Owensboro to pursue a career in Dietetics at the University of Kentucky.  She eventually graduated and began an internship at Lipscomb University, going on to become a Registered Dietician.

From what I remember Chelsea has always been a go getter.  Determined is an understatement when describing her.  She was always ready for what life handed her.  What she would endure on Monday, March 8, 2010, I am not sure anyone could prepared her for.

Here's Chelsea's story as she recalls:

It’s strange because I woke up on Monday, March 8, 2010 actually early!  I got up, it was a beautiful morning.  I even went for a walk with the dog which was out of the ordinary!  I felt like it was going to be a great day!

 

At some point on the way to work I was talking on one of my cell phones and drop the call.  What I can remember is that my work cell phone rang and I thought it was probably the call that just dropped, as I look down to search for my phone I caught the edge of the highway and over corrected.

For some reason I never hit the brakes and went down into the median.  The last thing I remember was the airbag wooshing past my face as the car started to barrel roll.  It was 9 o’clock on the Bluegrass Parkway. There was rarely ever in a traffic when I headed that direction at that time a day.  Luckily there were no other cars around.

 

Thankfully, the first car that came along was a sheriff.  The next was a member of the army, he was off duty and the third, an off-duty EMT. Clearly best case scenario in a bad situation.

 

I knew immediately that I was paralyzed but I never panicked.  After the sheriff told me he had already called my then boyfriend, I simply asked that he call my mom.  My memory of being extracted from the car is a little hazy.  I do recall sitting in the ambulance on the highway waiting for the medic helicopter.   Even then I wasn’t panicked I just tried to remain calm.  I think if at any moment I had panicked I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.

 

I think much of the staff who treated me was rather surprised at my calm demeanor and my ability to argue over my treatment while under heavy doses of morphine. But that’s just my character!  I dislocated two vertebrae in my neck, which caused the paralysis, had two other fractures lower in my back, 30 Staples on my head from being partially ejected, an air embolism, hypothermia, and the threat of being intubated at any moment.  Within 24 hours I had surgery to stabilize my spine.

 

During that first week of recovery I don't remember much because I was on a morphine pump, but I do remember David asking me to marry him!!   He said he couldn't stand the thought of us being separated!   After a week at UK, I was transferred to one of the best spinal cord injury hospitals in the nation The Shepherd Center, in Atlanta, GA.

 

David & I were married on April 4th, in the small chapel there and he spent every night on a cot in my room.

There I did four months of intensive physical therapy and I was finally able to come home on July 3, 2010!

 

It was like a whole new world being home. You can't access anything, there are so many barriers. We made it work!
From the beginning I've tried to keep busy. It's in my character to work hard. I start to feel guilty if I'm idle too long.   Sometimes however just making it through the day was a lot of work!   Just "living" is no longer automated.

I now have to think about shifting my weight or moving positions because I will no longer get sore when I've been in the same position too long.   I have to remind myself to eat because I don't get hungry.   I also can't "eat my feelings" anymore because I don't burn calories like I used to.   If you don't move enough, everything locks up.  My bowel and bladder don't automatically "happen" on cue. EVERYTHING is different.
Add in a new marriage, a blended family, spouse as my caregiver, etc and things get tough.   But you wake up every morning and take it moment by moment.

To be honest I haven't spoke to Chelsea in probably 15 years until yesterday.  Of course, just like the rest of the world I have followed her life on social media, to get make-up tips from videos she posts (she is a Limelife Consultant) and kept up with her through her sister Darby who I have remained close to over the years.

When we talked yesterday I sat listening in amazement.  She was super transparent about her life and very humble.  I am over here in complete and utter awe of her strength and courage.  She just says it is part of her new normal each day.

The coolest thing ever and what a lot of us take for granted is Chelsea got to drive for the first time in 9 years this past week.  She posted a video on facebook and it caught my attention.  I had tears and goosebumps and I think you will too.  You have to watch!

Thank you so much Chelsea.  We are so blessed by your courage and your story!