Thursday, August 9, 2012

Theatre student conquers the odds

By Kealy Doyle

When Theatre student Chelsea Stamp-Vincent woke up in the hospital after being hit by a car, doctors told her she’d be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life.

Her first thought was that she wouldn’t be able to graduate with her classmates and fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming an actor. Not when she’d broken her neck in three places, fractured her spinal cord and sliced a main artery. She was facing life in a wheelchair.
 

Chelsea counted on the support of her friends and family to help her with her recovery. She got an added boost from Allan Lysell, Theatre Coordinator at Douglas College.

“Allan came to see me four days after the accident,” Chelsea recalls. “He told me about community theatre groups for people with disabilities, but I was hell bent on going through physio and getting better so I could go back to Douglas. Allan said that even if he had to carry me onto the stage, the Theatre Department would welcome me back with open arms.”

With tremendous determination, Chelsea slowly regained control of her body and her life. She learned to walk again and returned to school and the stage – in time to graduate with her class.

The intense program of classes and rehearsals gave Chelsea little free time. But thanks to bursaries through the Douglas College Foundation, she’s been able to make ends meet. “It’s harder now because I can’t work while I’m going back to school. My body just won’t do it. So it’s a huge blessing and a weight off my shoulders.”

A classically-trained opera singer, Chelsea always imagined herself on the stage. But her accident and rehabilitation have given her a new perspective. She graduated from the Theatre Department in June and is planning to pursue a degree in psychology at Douglas.

She wants to eventually become an occupational therapist working with young adults with spinal cord injuries. “I want to show them that it’s possible to achieve the dreams they had before they were injured.”