‘I don’t harbor anger’: Woman paralyzed by Buffalo police cruiser talks future goals

Erie County

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.

“Every day is a little different,” she says. “Every day is hard.”

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

Chelsea says she doesn’t remember walking on the sidewalk at the corner of Main Street and Benwood Avenue on April 15, 2020, nor when she was hit and thrown by a Buffalo Police cruiser. Her last memory was Easter Sunday two days before.

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

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. She mentioned a friend who left the crash scene with neck, back, and knee problems. “Thinking about the accident, I feel sad for my friend Karley, who was with me, for my family and my friends … and for me.”

Chelsea mentioned herself last because putting others above herself is what Chelsea always does. She was a teacher for refugees before the crash. 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 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, dressing her, bathing her, and helping with everything.

Three times a day, Chelsea does exercises to help her get off the ventilator. She recently breathed independently 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. Many others also helped tremendously, donating hundreds of thousands to a crowdfunding campaign to help with bills. 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.”

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.

From her home, by showing the strength to move forward radiating positivity, Chelsea is still teaching. 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.”

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