‘I don’t harbor anger’: One year after crash, young woman paralyzed by BPD cruiser talks about future goals

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ALDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been a little more than a year since a Buffalo Police cruiser hit a young woman who was walking on the sidewalk in Buffalo, and now Chelsea Ellis is talking about the major hurdles she’s faced in her road to recovery.

Right now, Chelsea Ellis is a quadriplegic and depends on a ventilator to breathe. In her first interview since the crash, she mouthed her answers to News 4’s Kelsey Anderson, while her aunt spoke them out loud. There is a mechanism she can use to speak, but it’s difficult and exhausting to use.

“Every day is a little different,” Chelsea said. “Every day is hard.”

On April 15, 2020 Chelsea Ellis’ life got hard.

She doesn’t remember walking on the sidewalk at the corner of Main Street and Benwood Avenue, or when she was hit and thrown by a Buffalo Police cruiser. Her last memory was two days prior on Easter.

“I only know things because people told me,” she said.

Chelsea was told she was given life-saving CPR three times after the crash. She suffered multiple severe fractures and a traumatic brain injury. But she said she’s not mad at the person who hit her.

“I was not an angry person before the accident,” Chelsea said, “and I don’t ever want to harbor anger.”

Instead, she said she feels sad after the crash — mainly for the others involved.

“Thinking about the accident I feel sad for my friend Karley, who was with me, for my family and my friends … and for me.”

She mentioned Karley first, who was walking with her that day. Karley left the crash scene with neck, back and knee problems.

Chelsea mentioned herself last. That’s because caring for others above herself is what Chelsea has always done. Before the crash, she was a teacher for refugees. She traveled the world doing missionary work in 11 different countries and teaching is what she misses the most.

“Since my injury, not being able to see my students has been my biggest hardship,” she said.

Chelsea now lives in an accessible home in Alden. Her loved ones and caregivers are there around-the-clock moving her from the bed to a wheelchair she controls with her eyes. They help dress her, bathe her … everything.

Three times a day, Chelsea does exercises that help her get off the ventilator. And recently, she was able to breath off of that ventilator for a new record: 2 hours, 15 minutes and 17 seconds.

Chelsea thanks her faith, family and friends for getting to this point. And many others have helped tremendously as well, donating to a GoFundMe that’s raised nearly $400,000.

She got overcome with emotion talking about those donations, many of which came from complete strangers.

“I thank them so, so, so, so much,” she said. “I wish I could tell them all individually I love them. Thank you.”

And Chelsea has big plans for her future. She said she wants to move back to the city of Buffalo one day and travel the world again. Most importantly, she wants to teach and inspire others.

But from her home, by showing the strength to not only survive, but also move forward with a radiating positivity, Chelsea is still teaching. And the lesson plan is for every single one of us.

“If anyone has challenges in their life, big or small … if I can get through this, and I will, then they absolutely can too.”

Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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