Kelsey’s Story: RIC Patient Heads to the Paralympic Games - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Published on September 01, 2016

Kelsey’s Story: RIC Patient Heads to the Paralympic Games


RIC patient Kelsey LeFevour is heading to Rio. This September, she will compete in the 100-, 400- and 800-meter track sprints in the 2016 Paralympic Games.


“It’s definitely a surreal experience; it still hasn’t entirely sunk in,” said Kelsey as she headed off to Rio de Janeiro.

 Kelsey LeFevour

Kelsey’s place on the Paralympic team is well-deserved: leading up to the trials, she trained twice a day, six days a week to make her dream a reality.


Kelsey, 27, was born with scoliosis, kyphosis and diastematomyelia, all conditions that affect the spine.


Growing up as the only child in her community with physical impairments, RIC’s Caring for Kids Program was Kelsey’s introduction to adaptive sports. She participated in diverse activities, from scuba diving and kayaking to skiing through all four years of high school.


“Having that outlet was pivotal in terms of being able to establish a community with other kids who were like me,” she said. “All of a sudden, I was able to do things that my classmates couldn’t do.” 


At 18, Kelsey became a patient of RIC’s Elliot Roth, M.D., who supported her through the classification process that Paralympic athletes must undergo, which requires comprehensive medical record documentation and letters from physicians.


When Kelsey was experiencing lower and mid-back pain, Dr. Roth suggested she get fitted with a new everyday wheelchair, and proposed ways to incorporate rest and recovery into training intervals.


“He always asks about my athletic pursuits and proposes practical treatment plans that enhance my training,” she said. “Heading into the Paralympics, I especially appreciate this guidance.”


In addition to Caring for Kids and her work with Dr. Roth, Kelsey has built ties to RIC throughout her life. Her mother, Karen Allabastro, is a long-time RIC nurse and past winner of the Magnuson Award, the highest distinction awarded to RIC employees. (Magnuson awards recognize individuals who “strongly contribute to ensuring the highest quality of patient care, and who consistently demonstrate the RIC Values of hope, compassion, discovery, collaboration and commitment to excellence.”)


“My mom is an incredibly proud RIC employee,” Kelsey said. “Her love for the Institute spills over.”


Beyond the Paralympics, Kelsey has big plans. She’s currently a third-year doctoral student at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign studying for her Ph.D. in recreation, sport and tourism.

 Kelsey LeFevour

“I am convinced that hard work really does pay off, and that people need to appreciate the process and celebrate the gains,” she said.