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Over time, student finds silver lining in family tragedy

On November 6, 2018

BY EMILY JONES / VN CO-EDITOR

Chelsea Short’s life changed forever on July 2, 2015, though she didn’t know it at the time.

Short and her boyfriend’s second anniversary fell on that day.

To celebrate, they planned to go out.

As she was getting ready in her bedroom, Short heard what sounded to be soft cries emanating from another room.

She charged out to find her mother sobbing and unable to speak.

Confused, Short scrambled for a piece of paper.

Her mother spelled out “STORK.”

Realization washed over Short. Her mom was having a stroke.

Short called her boyfriend’s mother, a nurse, who told her to give her mother a series of quick tests.

The tests confirmed that her mother was truly having a stroke.

“Each time I would run a test I would get this wave of panic, you know when you’re little and you break something, and you’re like, ‘Mom’s going to kill me?’ ”

Short rushed her mother to the closest hospital, 20 minutes away.

Staff took her back immediately.

After being scanned, stabilized and medicated, Short’s mother finally had a moment to talk to her daughter.

Crying, her mother repeatedly said that she was “so sorry” for ruining Short’s anniversary.

After midnight, Short and her family left the hospital to get some rest.

By then, everyone had been at the hospital for about 12 hours.

Any sense of calm soon evaporated.

Tragedy struck during the night.

The hospital called the next morning and told Short that her mom had stopped breathing on her own and would need another serious medical procedure to relieve the pressure in her skull.

Short sped to the hospital.

As she drove, she broke into tears.

She wiped them away, distracted, as a car ahead of her stopped to turn into a subdivision.

Too close, she slammed on the brakes and cranked the wheel all the way right in a desperate move to avoid a collission.

She clipped the car, jumped a ditch and side swept some trees off the road.

A fire hydrant stopped her vehicle.

She came to as the other driver was trying to break her driver side window to save her.

“I never met anyone as lucky as you,” he said.

As she stumbled out of the car, she saw that her car rested six inches from a gas line.

Short refused an ambulance. She was still on a mission.

Her mom’s fiancée drove her to the hospital.

Short waited anxiously for her mom to get out of surgery.

The sight, when she did, startled Short.

“That was probably the most traumatic thing ever, seeing my mom like that,” Short recalled. “It didn’t look like her.”

Two days later, Short and her family received even worse news.

“Three-fourths of her brain had gone dark because of the bleeding,” she said.

Short was presented with two options: either keep her mother on life support or take her off.

Her mother and her mother’s fiancée had been together for six years at that point but hadn’t married yet.

Even though Short, her boyfriend, and her mother all lived in his house, the fiancée legally had no say in the matter.

Short’s sister was too upset to do anything, she said.

The final decision was left to Short. She knew that her mother would hate the thought of being kept on life support.

“I had to do it,” she said.

On July 5, after talking with other family members, Chelsea Short gave the order to take her mother off life support.

“It was really crazy, going from your typical happy home where nothing’s wrong, to coming home to everything’s different,” Short said.

There was no funeral.

“We don’t do funerals,” she explained, adding that they are “too sad.”

Instead, a celebration-of-life party was thrown in honor of Short’s mother.

Three months later, because her mother’s fiancée started seeing someone else, Short and her boyfriend were kicked out of his house.

They immediately moved into her boyfriend’s mother’s house, and things have been looking up ever since.

“Shit gets really really hard, and it takes a long time to find the good in it, but there’s always a silver lining,” said Short.

Her mother’s death has pushed her closer to her boyfriend and his mother.

Her mother’s death also enabled her to spot when her boss was having a stroke, possibly saving his life because she knew the signs.

Her mother’s death has made her realize that there’s no use holding on to anger, hurt and petty transgressions.

Things are going well for her now.

Shortly after the painful events of July 2015, Sedgewick and Ferweda Architects in Flint hired her.

Short is currently finishing her master of arts degree in architecture at Detroit Mercy. (Baker College ended up cancelling the program she was attending there.)

Short is interested in creating sustainable housing.

She and her boyfriend are buying their first home together, an old house with creaky wooden floors and enough backyard space for their two dogs.

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