Posted December 1, 2021

My name is Chelsea Gaughran, I was born in Richmond, Virginia, but lived in New Jersey until I was 2 years old and then I lived near Washington DC until I was 6 years old. I was sick a lot and because my dad traveled all the time, my mom wanted to live near my grandmother, so we moved to Richmond when I was in first grade. I am 32 years old; I live with my mom and dad, I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, but I do have a younger brother who’s married.

I was diagnosed with 22q deletion when I was a little over 2 years old. It was called Velo cardio facial syndrome (VCFS). I started in a Special Education preschool when I was 2 years old and stayed in Special Education in public school until 5th grade. I had suffered from what they thought were seizures and found out I had stressed-induced panic attacks which made my body act as if it were having seizures.  I was placed in a special school for a while; once I felt safe, I stopped having those attacks. I went to the special school from 5th grade until 12th grade where I had speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, along with my Special Ed classes. I played sports for my new school, and I met friends that were like me — that school changed my life! I did not go to college, but I went to a training program through a place called Positive Vibe, where they taught me how to work in the food industry. I worked in their restaurant for 8 years.

I was born with a heart defect, and I have a cardiologist. I have lesions on my brain that I’ve had to have 27 brain MRIs to make sure they don’t change, I have follow-ups every 6 months. I am hypothyroid, and I suffer with severe anxiety and panic attacks. I also have anxiety-based psychosis, all this is controlled by my medication I take every day.

I played soccer and basketball and now I’m with the Special Olympics. I also did this dance thing called the dreamers. I’ve been on many vacations growing up and I loved going to the beach with my family! I have 12 first cousins that we would go to the beach with in the summers. I also learned the piano and the harp. My current hobbies and pastime are working with the Special Olympics, for sure!  I also have begun doing puzzles as a hobby and art. I love to listen to music and watch movies. I handle any challenges that come my way by listening to music when I am stressed out. I talk to my mom and my aunt and cousins about how I feel, and I also journal my feelings.

Staying healthy is a big part of the Special Olympics they make sure that we follow a special diet—to stay healthy! I am a Global Messenger for Special Olympics, and on the young professionals’ board for Special Olympics as well as the athlete representative for the state of Virginia board of trustees with Special Olympics.  As a global messenger, I make speeches at schools and corporations to spread the word about Special Olympics and what it has done for me as an athlete.  I am most proud of all what I have done with Special Olympics, it changed my life.

Some advice I would share with children growing up with 22q is always be proud of who you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Love who you are and look more at what you can do and not what you can’t do. My goal for the future is to go to the world games for Special Olympics and meet Tim Shriver.

When I end all my speeches, I always leave it with a quote I love that I found from a movie:

“We don’t need easy, we just need possible.”