TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Chelsea Rolph’

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life

Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life
Chelsea Rolph

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(author – Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)


chelsea rolph

Chelsea Rolph – Survivor of Brain Injury

This has been one heck of a decade! When I think back to how it all began, I would have never seen myself where I am now.

I began this decade healing from a concussion and graduating high school. I chose to do a “Victory Lap” so I could have the time to figure out what I wanted to do with my future.

As the school year began in September 2010, I returned back to varsity sports to continue to do what I loved … play.

Unfortunately, as most people know, it did not end well. I was knocked out during a basketball game in the last 4 seconds, leaving me with the concussion of all concussions.

I remember sitting in accounting, music, and business classes and crying to myself because it hurt too much to read the text. I also remember going home and breaking down because I no longer had the sports to turn to as a stress relief. I was frustrated with the amount of exhaustion I was feeling at the end of the day.

I was sent to a concussion rehab clinic for a few months, and this was the first time I felt like I finally had some answers. At the beginning of this decade, my parents would take me to the hospital every week to get tests done on both my heart and my brain. These tests concluded with doctors suggesting that my “new normal” was going to be a long transition with no end in sight.

Although all of my friends were applying to colleges and universities, I was told that I should not consider post-secondary education at that time. Despite this, I still applied to colleges and universities to keep my options open.

After being accepted to all of my options, I decided to go to McMaster University (MAC), so I had family support close by if I were really struggling. After accepting MAC, I met with a counselor to discuss what the rehab clinic had said I should have for accommodations.

After the guidance counselor at MAC agreed to all of the accommodations that were recommended for me, she suggested that I should take two classes a semester and take ten years to complete my undergrad.

Fast-forward to the end of the decade – most people know that not only did I choose to take a full course load, but I also chose to try to accomplish it without the accommodations recommended. The counselors did not believe I would be successful even with the accommodations and tried to talk me out of it. Not only did I take a full course load, but I was also working close to full-time hours at the same time.

Get-a-Bachelors-Degree-Online-Step-15Four years later, in May of 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In August 2015, I was hired in my first full-time job! After three months, I received a promotion, and then, ten months after that, I was promoted again to the position I am currently in. Over the last 4.5 years, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with so many amazing students and colleagues who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Unfortunately, I have chosen to leave my current position to pursue other opportunities.

As this decade ends, a new and exciting chapter begins! Today I find myself writing this from the comforts of my home as I begin my journey as an entrepreneur. My business partner and I are so excited to have the opportunity to quit our full-time jobs to focus on running our own business.

Along with reminiscing about my professional career over the past ten years, I also think about the personal experiences. Many have been positive, but I also had my share of sorrows. I have lost so many amazing people in my life, including both of my grandmas, my uncle, and a friend. I have lost a pet and nearly lost two more. I struggled with immigration. And, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I am very happy to say that I have also had the opportunity to see my mom defeat cancer and ring that victory bell. I am also happy that Rod and I no longer need to worry about immigration or travelling out of the country together for events. I also have a long list of amazing other things that have happened over the past decade: graduating, falling in love, buying a car, travelling to many cities and countries (for example, Las Vegas, New York City, Ecuador, the east coast of Canada, mainland Europe, and the UK), attending a conference in the United Nations headquarters, fundraising around $150,000 for both OIPlocal and global organizations, making so many amazing new friends, experiencing weddings, getting over my fear of babies, having nieces and nephews, getting a kitten, and going back to school to study French as a second language.

Here’s to hoping that the next decade will bring less of the sadness and more of the happiness and excitement that I have been lucky enough/privileged to experience.

Cheers to 2020!

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Chelsea Rolph

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Chelsea Rolph



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


chelsea rolph

Chelsea Rolph – Brain Injury Survivor

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Chelsea Rolph

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

I have unfortunately had many traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). My first one happened when I was roughly 5. I have also had a concussion at 17 and two more at 18.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My first TBI happened because I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt properly. Somebody hit my dad in a parking lot, and I flew out of my seat and hit my head on the seat in front of me. My later TBIs happened because of my favourite sport – basketball. You see, sometimes I get competitive. Sports were also my way of releasing any built-up anger I might have. I would let it all out on the court. One day, I was going for a ball, and I got an elbow in my temple. I blacked out for a minute, but I convinced my coach and the refs that I was okay. I kept playing until my coach noticed that something about me wasn’t right, and he took me off the court. After the game, I was taken to the hospital to get checked out. That was where they told me that I have a TBI and that I should relax – take time off from school and sports.08172116cc812061b05e6a42350f7002

My later TBIs were the ones that really affected me. I remember being in a basketball game (the second of the season), and we were down by 1 point with 44 seconds on the clock. I had a lane. I drove to the net, went up for my layup, and then darkness. I was out. I woke up lying underneath the net and feeling so confused. My coach and the ref were standing by me. I was immediately taken to the hospital. I remember that my eyes were doing weird things, such that the doctor called other doctors to take a look. I actually took time off from school that time. However, I was banned from sports for the rest of my life. I was told that, even with a helmet, I would still suffer from concussions.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I knew the injury was serious when I started blacking out. I was also really sensitive to light. I remember that the day after I hit my head, I woke up and I was blind. I opened my eyes, but all I could see was darkness. It was a really scary feeling. I called for my mom, and she took me back to the hospital.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I never had any emergency treatment. However, I was tested for anything and everything. I was given an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a CT (computerized tomography) scan, ECGs (electrocardiograms), an EEG (electroencephalogram), and a stress test. I had ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). I wore a heart monitor for a week. They did a sleep study on me, and I was given a neuropsychological test. Some of these tests gave me answers, and some did not.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I was never in a coma. I just had seizures and random blackouts.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I was in outpatient rehab in Hamilton, Ontario. That hospital is the reason why I had answers. I went there for roughly one year. I was on a fast track because my goal was to discover if I was able to go to school. Basically I spent my summer in the hospital to do the tests and to get the results.

Chelsea Rolph 2 Survivor 061415

Chelsea Rolph – Brain Injury Survivor

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I had a lot of problems. The one that affected me the most was the fact that I would pass out if I got my heart rate up. I was no longer able to play sports with my athlete-friends. I also noticed a huge shift in my personality. I used to be a very happy-go-lucky person. I wanted to be a Social Worker and help others. After my TBI, I became a huge jerk! I was always moody, I stopped caring about things, and I altered my personality so I wouldn’t let things affect me. I kept myself from getting attached to things I care about. I loved basketball, and in one second all of that was taken away from me. I still suffer from this. I have made myself an emotionless robot. I also stopped wanting to be Social Worker because I realized that if I couldn’t help myself, then I couldn’t possibly help others. I had to get bifocals. (I was having a hard time adjusting from up-close visuals to things far away.) I also had a hard time with my memory. I used to be in acting, and I could memorize a script easily. However, I was not able to remember what I read. My short-term memory was severely affected. My doctor referred to me as “an old computer.” (I had the information needed, but it took a while to get to me. I kept buffering.) I lost my abilities to multitask, to focus, and to sit still. My fine-motor skills suffered. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding what has been said to me and how to answer. I also had difficulty sleeping because I was having mini-seizures in my sleep.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Has my life changed? Of course! Is it better or worse? Who knows? I have suffered, and I have dealt with things on my own that people shouldn’t. I remember coming home from school crying to my mom because all of a sudden I was unable to do the things I used to do. In contrast to the thoughts of many people, I was still able to complete University. I might have just gone to college (like I should have), but now I can proudly say I have my degree! That might not have happened without my TBIs because back then I wasn’t out to prove anything. Do I now have a bigger debt than what I should have? ABSOLUTELY! However, I will never regret it. My life isn’t “better” or “worse” than it originally was, but I feel I have been very fortunate.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss my friends. All of my friends are athletes. Taking away my ability to be active took me from my friends. I was no longer able to do the things that I normally did. My friends kept playing sports, and I kept sitting on the sidelines. It wasn’t easy, but I found the ones who are able to understand that part and still be by my side. I really cherish that.

I also miss my ability to always be willing to go out and meet new people. I get exhausted a lot more easily than I used to. Before, I would never be home. I would always be working. If not, I would be playing a sport, and if I weren’t doing that, I would be with my friends doing fun, crazy things! My fiancé is a DJ, and a part of being the DJ’s significant other is going to his gigs and socializing with the other significant others. I still love doing that, but now I find it more exhausting than what it should be/used to be!

I would like to be able to go back and play sports the way I used to, but now I am a coward. I am scared of playing. I am scared of taking two steps backwards. I have moved on from what I wasn’t able to do, and I am now trying to find other things that I enjoy. I am slowly trying to get back into the shape I used to be in five years ago.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy the fact that I got to start over with a blank slate. I was able to take a step back and really see what and who made me happy. I love that my fiancé was in my life when I was first dealing with my issues. He has never left my side. I love that I was able to prove to doctors, friends, family, and the faculty at McMaster University that, despite what they thought, I could graduate without the accommodations I should have had. I am now out living my life. I am doing what every recent graduate does – looking for a full-time job, hopefully buying a car, and looking for an apartment. I am doing everything that most people do, except with an invisible problem.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I don’t like the fact that I lost something that I loved, which, I previously mentioned, was my love for basketball. I faced loss, even though nobody had passed away. I felt as though something I had strongly cared about was taken away from me. I also don’t like the fact that I have an invisible illness. I don’t want to make excuses. When I am having a problem with something, I don’t like to say, “I have had a concussion.” I don’t promote that about myself. I hated that I was so close to potentially receiving the grade 12 Athlete of the Year award and that it was taken away from me without a fighting chance.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

A couple things have helped me on my journey to success. My rehab clinic helped me a lot! It helped me by giving me answers to the problems I was having. I don’t normally like talking about my feelings, but I do enjoy talking to one of my pets. My mom, my sister, and my fiancé have also helped me. The one thought that I always have is “My TBI happened. I can’t dwell in the past, and I can’t make excuses. What I can do is do what I love. If I have a challenge, problem solve. What can I do to make this work for me?” I realized that I shouldn’t have to give up on something because it is tough. I have to come up with my own solutions to deal with that problem.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Besides the fact that I am moody, my TBIs haven’t affected my relationships too much. It was tough dealing with my changed memory. If my parents asked me to do something for them, there is a good chance I would forget. When my boyfriend and I were originally dating, I hated that I had to ask him personal questions multiple times because I couldn’t remember. Other than that, not much has changed.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I have mentioned before about my social life. I felt like I had lost my friends because of my inability to play sports alongside them. I have become more of an introvert. I like coming home and relaxing. I get overwhelmed socializing for a long period of time. I need breaks from people – I need “me” time.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My mom was my main caregiver. It must have been really tough on her to have her baby daughter come home crying every day because of frustration. My mom has been my rock. She has been by my side every step of them way. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She was the one who supported me when I decided to go to University without any help, and she was there to see me walk across that stage.

Chelsea Rolph 1 Survivor 061415

Chelsea Rolph – TBI Survivor – Graduate McMaster University

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I am always wondering what I want to do with my future. I would love to inspire some people. I have always thought about working at a juvenile detention centre. I would love to talk to the kids and show them that they can prove others wrong – “Don’t let others tell you who you are or who you’re not, and don’t let them control your future.” I want to write about the power of “Yes” and “No.” Other than that, I would love to get married to the love of my life and maybe start our own family!

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

I want others to know that something good can come out of this situation. I really had a hard time with this. I ran into one of my former high school gym teachers, and I was told that, because of me, the rules around brain trauma have been altered at the school level. The School Board has created guidelines with steps to follow if a student has a brain injury. I work at a recreation centre teaching sports to kids, and I walked out of the gym and saw the guidelines posted. A student must have time off, and when the student returns, he or she is to have a private room with no distractions. Even though I had to go through my TBIs with no support from my high school, except for some of my teachers, my journey helped create change for others.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Never lose hope! You are only as strong as you feel. Keep pushing forward, and make the best of every day. Seize the moment and life with no regrets. Things happen. If we dwell on the problems, we will never give ourselves room to grow and improve. If I decided not to go to University and just take the year off, I might not be in the state of mind that I am in today. I also might not have met the people who took me “across the ocean.” You are the main character in your life-story. You get to choose the paths you take. Don’t let barriers get in the way of your happiness. If something doesn’t work for you, make it!


(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)


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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury Chelsea Rolph

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Chelsea Rolph

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!


It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Chelsea Rolph (survivor)

Chelsea Rolph 3 Survivor 061415Four summers ago, I did not know what I was going to do after leaving high school. I had suffered multiple concussions, and I spent my summer in concussion rehab. I was sent for a test or results at least once a week. I had a neuropsychological exam. It was a full, exhausting day of random tests. The results of this exam really gave me some answers. Essentially the doctors were telling me that I have a lot of problem areas. If I decided to go to school, I would need:
– a note-taker
– a private room for exams
– extra time for exams
– take-home, open-book exams, if possible
– formulas for any possible math classes
– extended time for assignments
– to be given assignments right away
– exam reviews from the profs
– the use of a computer

I had a lot of problems, and I needed a lot of help. The doctor told me that, because I was trying to choose between college and university, I should choose college. I was told that college is more hands-on, but it was suggested that I take time off and not even consider going to school. I decided that I would go to McMaster University and see if I can get the accommodations. When I sat down with one of the guidance counselors, I was told that they have had people with my problems before. The counselor suggested that I take one, maybe two, classes a semester. Basically I left that meeting feeling discouraged. I didn’t think I would be going to school at all.Chelsea Rolph 1 Survivor 061415

As the school year approached and I had to make a final decision on school, I decided that I was going to go to school. I decided that I wanted to prove everybody wrong.

Four years later, I GRADUATED! I did it without the help of any doctors and without any accommodations from Mac. It wasn’t easy, but I walked across that stage and became an official “Graduate of 2015.”

Chelsea Rolph 2 Survivor 061415I would like to thank everybody that made it possible, and I want to thank everybody I have met along the way to make these past four years some of the most memorable. Among the Vanier Cup win in first year, Homecoming, meeting the love of my life, beer pong Tuesday, and even a flash mob, I have made some unforgettable memories.

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post

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