By TERRY JENSON
On August 19, 2015, Chelsea Phillips’ life changed forever.
After a day of drinking, Phillips and four close friends were involved in a horrific crash later that evening just outside her hometown of Biggar, Saskatchewan. Police investigation revealed the truck had been travelling 180 km/h when it left the road, struck an approach, and rolled numerous times.
Two of her friends, including the driver who was impaired, died on the scene and another two were taken by road ambulance to hospital. Phillips, meanwhile, was found unresponsive but clinging to life a football field away from the wreckage and the decision was made by first responders to make the call to STARS – the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service.
Standing between several flight paramedics, nurses and pilots – including the two on board the helicopter that night – Phillips told her story at the grand prize show home in Saskatoon during the launch of the 2019 STARS Saskatchewan Lottery on Wednesday, May 15.
Phillips was in hospital for four months and underwent 11 surgeries in the weeks that followed the crash. Doctors initially didn’t think she would make it through that first night and, if she did, believed she would never walk or talk again due to the severity of her injuries. But, not only did she survive, she beat the odds.
The road to recovery has been long and, to this day, continues for Phillips. The crash and the years leading up to it have been erased. Gone are memories of her graduation four years previously, the marriage of her older sister, and the birth of her nephew. Now living in Saskatoon while many of her friends are still in Biggar, Phillips’ days consist of happily volunteering at Sherbrooke Community Centre and loves her job helping others. But, while she appears to be a happy, healthy young woman on the outside, she still suffers from the effects of the collision.
“I find it annoying that I still have to rely on my mom, my sister and my grandma to get me places,” she added, saying she gets frustrated not being able to live on her own. “I sometimes have difficulties finding the right words to use and I also have trouble paying attention and get distracted easily. I need an agenda and an alarm to remember days.”
Phillips’ narrative is a touching one of how STARS saved her life, but there are hundreds of other VIPs – Very Important Patients – who have stories of their own in Saskatchewan.
According to Cindy Seidel, Flight Nurse and Director of Provincial Operations for STARS Saskatchewan, the organization has flown 5,500 missions to over 500 communities since its inception in 2012. With helicopters and crews based in Saskatoon and Regina, STARS transports critically or seriously injured patients from scenes and also between hospitals and health centres when deemed necessary.
“(Chelsea’s story) hits a little close to home for me as I’m from Biggar as well and Chelsea graduated with my son so this (crash) was certainly devastating for our small community,” Seidel explained afterwards, thanking Phillips for the courage to tell her story.
This year’s STARS Lottery features two grand prize show homes – one in Saskatoon’s Greenbryre Estates worth $1.58 million and the other near Regina at Spruce Creek Estates in Pilot Butte with a retail value of $1.57 million. In addition to trips, vehicles and cash, there are 2,004 more prizes to be won including electronics, jewelry, gift cards, and even an opportunity to take a sightseeing tour of Saskatchewan inside a STARS helicopter.
As of May 15, the lottery was already close to 55 per cent sold out.
Tickets are $60 each, two for $100, six for $250 or twelve for $375 and can be purchased in-person at either of the two grand prize show homes, online at starslotterysaskatchewan.ca, by mail at P.O. Box 1515, Regina, SK S4P 3C2, or by calling 1-844-STARS-SK (1-844-782-7775).
The early bird deadline for the opportunity to win the Ultimate Adventure Package or $225,000 cash is June 27 while the draw for the 50-50 jackpot, worth up to $875,000, will be made August 1. Tickets for the 50-50 are $10 each, five for $25 or fifteen for $50 and the deadline for ticket purchases is July 18.
“I’m grateful to be alive, despite my struggles, and am thankful to have a second chance at life because of the quick work and expertise of all the local links in the chain of survival and my STARS flight crew,” Phillips said in her presentation. “I’m so thankful (STARS) was able to help me nearly four years ago. The only way STARS can stay in the sky and help other patients in need is through your support. Please buy your STARS lottery tickets today and help save a life – maybe even the life of someone like me.”