Chelsee Fuerch from California has given us the opportunity to get to know her through an internship at BACKBONES. She is one amazing woman who values our community and is always seeking to learn and share her knowledge. Thank you for being part of the team Chelsee! Get to know more about here below:
When were you injured and what level injury are you?
I was injured June 18, 2019 where I sustained a cervical spinal cord injury, fracturing my C3-C6 and later diagnosed as a C4 quadriplegic.
Please share your SCI story.
I just got off work on Tuesday in the summer time, when I reached out to my friend Sienna to see what she was doing. She texted back right away, saying that she was literally just about to call me to see what I was doing. I met her in Los Olivos to grab lunch and go wine tasting around 1PM. We got done around 5PM and decided to go back to her house for dinner and grab her clothes because she was planning on staying over. Instead of taking two cars up to her house, we decided to take one. I got in her car as a passenger. We made it about a quarter down Figueroa Mountain Rd. when there was a sharp turn in the road where she overcorrected the wheel causing the car to instantly go off the road down a 20ft ditch where we took out a tree along with a metal fence landing upside down. The car was completely smashed, and my friend was pronounced dead on the scene. I was flown to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in critical condition.
Where do you live?
I live in Santa Maria, California
How have you been able to become a part of the disability community?
I have been able to become a part of the disability community through a couple different non-profit foundations as well as social media. When I was at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center I got connected with Norcal SCI, which is a nonprofit in San Jose area that’s connected with the hospital and helps individuals with SCI/D. During my hospitalization I would go to the peer support group meetings, which I’m still a part of virtually. I also got connected with the Triumph Foundation located in Santa Clarita, CA. This foundation has been such an amazing resource, along with making so many new friends and having amazing support! Last year I got connected with a local nonprofit based in San Luis Obispo called Positive Ride, where they help individuals with disabilities get back out on the beach and hiking trails using Freedom Trax. Also I just finished a six month part-time internship with BACKBONES where I learned a little bit more about how nonprofit organizations operate as well, as helping with social media and connections/community for individuals with SCI/D. I am also a part of an amazing local peer support group where we get together once a month and share our experiences, hangout and support one another. Through these different foundations I have been able to make some incredible friends and connections along the way!
What are your goals (personally and professionally)?
My personal goals consists of working on my self-love, confidence and strength/independence. Another big goal of mine is to drive independently. Professionally I hope to gain more knowledge through education as well as experience. I’d like to grow my communication skills and interpersonal skills to better prepare me to become a licensed therapist in the future.
Who do you look up to/admire?
I admire my mother’s strength, love and determination. I also admire my grandma’s strength, love, compassion, and big heart. I look up to so many in the spinal cord injury community. My friend Tammy has not only been an amazing friend but a mentor through my SCI journey. I also admire Ali Ingersoll who is a quadriplegic, Corporate Disability Strategy Consultant, Day Trader, Writer, and Keynote Speaker.
What are some activities or hobbies you do in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy reading, listening to podcasts, listening to music, working out, hiking, watching shows, going to the beach, concerts, sunbathing and going on outings/adventures. I also love spending time with family and friends.
What are your educational goals?
I have my BA in psychology and I’m looking to further my education through a fully online Master of Art in Clinical Professional Counseling program or an in person MFT program at a university near me. The goal is to help others who have been through trauma, grief, anxiety, and depression.
If you could change one thing to make the world better for people with SCI/D what would it be?
If I can change one thing to make the world better for people with SCI/D it would be a “cure,” but aside from that the healthcare system as a whole. I would love to change how the healthcare system operates along with insurance, to make it more accessible and less stressful for the disability community.
What is a quote that inspires you?
“Never trust your fears, they don’t know your strength.”