Emily Edwards has been a standout on the Nixa girl’s basketball team for the past three seasons. During that time, she has earned COC first team all conference awards as well as making all district teams. She has been a huge part of Nixa’s success on the court, thanks to her scoring prowess from the guard position. She’s a knock down three point shooter as well as showing the ability to get to the rim and finish in traffic and is considered to be one of the best players in the area. With all of those accolades, it was no surprise when at the start of her junior season, Edwards received a full ride offer from Division 2 Rockhurst University to continue her basketball career, an offer that she accepted. A true competitor with a love for basketball, she was looking forward to continuing her career in college at the same school her older sister Abby already attends.
But those plans went awry when she was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition medically known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy, or ARVC. The condition is a primary disease of the heart muscle and results in fibro-fatty replacement of the right ventricle and the subepicardial region of the left ventricle. To combat this disease, she had a heart defibrillator placed in her chest and underwent cardiac ablation surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Her condition is stable now, thanks to the defibrillator and medication, but her competitive playing days are over.
Needless to say, Edwards and her family were deeply shocked and saddened at the news. There have been instances throughout the country of young athletes suddenly dying from the disease, not knowing they had it until their tragic deaths. Thankfully, Edwards and her family were able to sense that something was wrong and sought out medical help and the subsequent diagnosis before potential tragedy struck.
ARVC is a disease that isn’t noticeable until athletes undergo strenuous training and competition. At age 12, Edwards had an EKG done as part of a routine checkup and was deemed to be in perfect health, and she played basketball at a high level throughout her adolescent years without any issues. But during the latter part of this past season for Nixa, Edwards started feeling lightheaded on the court at times and chalked it up to being out of shape. A tireless worker, she worked harder to get herself in top condition, but when her symptoms persisted, including feeling as if she would pass out during games, Edwards and her parents knew something was wrong and sought medical help. At first, the diagnosis was that Edwards was showing symptoms of asthma, so she was prescribed with an inhaler. During a basketball tournament this past spring with her club team, Mo Valley Magic, Edwards suffered through the same symptoms, but the inhaler was not helping. A subsequent medical checkup, including an EKG, would result in the diagnosis of ARVC. She was told that she could no longer play competitive basketball, a devastating letdown to Edwards and her family, as well as to her teammates and coaches, of whom she refers to as her “second family.”
As traumatic and shocking as this news was, Edwards has found new life after basketball. Despite never having so much as picked up a golf club before, she took up the sport, making the Nixa varsity team this past fall and improving so much during the season that she was considered to be one of the top three or four golfers on the team by season’s end. As Edwards says, “I love having the opportunity to find other passions in things such as playing golf.”
With the blessing of Nixa varsity girls basketball coach Jennifer Perryman, Edwards settled into more of a coaching role with the team, mentoring the younger players, coaching them during the summer shoot outs in June, as well as during a session at the Fieldhouse this past fall. And the news got better: Her doctors said her condition has improved enough for her to suit up for the Lady Eagles this season, but with the caveat of only being able to play a minute or two at a time. She is not able to run for long periods of time and her practices are limited to mostly doing shooting drills and walking. The defibrillator she wears. along with her medications, will prevent any life threatening cardiac episodes from happening. And Rockhurst University will honor the full ride scholarship offered to her even though she cannot play for them.
Being a part of the Nixa Lady Eagles this season has been a bittersweet experience for Edwards.
“The start of this season has been hard but I am happy to get to be a part of it and to help my team in any way that I can,” she says.
Her teammates and coaches have honored her by having the letter “E”, her nickname, sewn onto a front shoulder strap of their jerseys. She continues to be a great teammate and person, one that everyone has a deep respect for, on and off the court.
It is extremely important to Edwards and her family to raise awareness about ARVC. Her father, Dr. Chris Edwards, is a general surgeon at Mercy, and even he was not previously aware of the disease. The Nixa Lady Eagles basketball team is putting on a fundraiser that will provide funds for further research into ARVC. To help, please consider buying a T-shirt either through the link below, or you may buy them at Lady Eagles home games starting this coming January. The shirts will also be available at the Fieldhouse in Springfield starting in January. All funds will go to Johns Hopkins ARVC Research.
With the season right around the corner, it remains to be seen how much time Edwards will receive on the court. But one way or the other, she will contribute mightily to the Lady Eagles, and her legacy will live on forever.
Please click HERE to contribute.