A road to recovery- motivated by unity

Assistant Lacrosse coach Kelsey Paulsen faces a long road of recovery, but has a strong and caring team to support her.

The+girls+lacrosse+team+wears+green+to+support+their+coach+on+her+road+to+recovery.

Allison Hipes

The girls’ lacrosse team wears green to support their coach on her road to recovery.

Rosemary Delamater, Staff Writer

There are many good ways to celebrate a birthday, from huge parties to movies with friends. Maybe a big deal is made of it, or maybe not. But there is a key word: celebrate.

“Celebrate” is not a smile dissolving as a car should slow down, but it never does. “Celebrate” is not the sound of sirens or a stretcher disappearing into the back of an ambulance.

“Celebrate” is not supposed to be the beginning to a two-week coma.

Assistant lacrosse coach Kelsey Paulsen was enjoying her 28th birthday in downtown Charleston on March 8. It was 7:30 on a Friday night.

“It wasn’t 2:00 in the morning,” said Coach Brooke Black, her friend and the head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team. “It wasn’t pitch dark out. She was just out to dinner with her family, her husband and two friends when this guy decided to drive with no lights on on King Street. She wasn’t even in the middle of the road.

“It could have been anybody,” Black added.

Coach Paulsen was an assistant coach for the girls’ lacrosse team for four years, up until last year when she took a break after getting married. According to Coach Black, “She is tenacious. She’s a fighter. She literally runs marathons for fun. She is your stereotypical Long Island girl, big personality.”

She is strong, both in body and spirit, Black said

“The accident happened Friday night, I heard about it Saturday, and I went to see the hospital on Sunday,” Black said. “My reaction was just… devastation. It’s unbelievable that this could happen to anybody, especially someone like her.”

The lacrosse team was no better off.

“When I told them, they were crestfallen. She’s so young, so full of life, and it’s shocking. I think that what hit home for a lot of girls is that she wasn’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t being careless,” Black said.

The team was brought face to face with the jarring fact that sometimes, a person can do everything right and bad things can still happen to them.

Coach Paulsen received serious wounds and a traumatic brain injury in the accident.

“It was very touch and go for a while,” Black said.

Paulsen spent the first two weeks unresponsive, but then started showing improvement. “It was a great sign when she moved her finger, because it meant that she wasn’t paralyzed,” said senior Caroline Koeman, a player on the lacrosse team.

Paulsen is now making substantial progress on the long road to recovery.

“Luckily she just got into the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which is a traumatic brain injury center. So getting into that — it’s a huge step for her recovery,” Black said.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the lacrosse team has rallied in support of Coach Paulsen and her family.

“[The girls] were the first, when they heard, to go ‘What can we do? How can we help?’ Same with the parents, the parents have gone above and beyond. Volunteering to open up their houses. Food, donations… all these things that the parents have been trying to do to support this family,” Black said.

The team also has done something else for their coach — the players dedicated a game to her.

“We all had green headbands, because green is the color for [trauma-related] brain injuries. Everyone also had a green armband on their right shoe and a blue one on their left. The blue ones said ‘tiny but mighty’ because Coach Kelsey is 5’3”, but she’s really feisty,” Koeman said.
This didn’t end after one game — the headbands and armbands have stuck around.

“I continue to wear them in every game, and girls have continued to wear them in every game, just to keep people aware that this is going to be a long rehabilitation,” Black said.

Paulsen will not recover quickly or easily, but the team plans to stick with her.

“The cliche is that our team’s a family, the lacrosse team’s a family, but it continues to blow me away,” Black said. “In the past couple of years, our team has been struck by some pretty adverse situations. And every single time, the community rallied to support these girls and their families. The same thing happened for Coach Kelsey. So I know that it’s more than just playing sports. It’s more than just a game. It really is about taking care of each other.”