Emily Edwards’ basketball career is in limbo and it appears certain she won't play for Nixa again, but her overall health appears stable after she was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition and underwent successful surgery.
Edwards learned in the spring she was suffering from ARCV, or in medical terms Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy. it is a primary disease of the heart muscle and technically, results in fibrofatty replacement of the right ventricle and the subepicardial region of the left ventricle.
Patients with ARCV are at high risk for sudden death.
Edwards subsequently had a heart defibrillator placed in her chest and underwent cardiac ablation surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore earlier this month. The surgery is a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that's allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm.
She’s doing her best to concentrate on the fact she’s now healthy and not dwell on the prospect of not playing basketball again.
“I’m really bummed that it’s most likely ended my basketball career,” Edwards said. “But I am so thankful that we caught it when we did. ARVC is one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.”
Studies have shown athletes can play sports with a heart defibrillator, but patients with ARCV are more likely than others to experience life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias when engaged in physical activity.
Edwards’ body gave her signals something was wrong during the course of last season.
“I was having trouble in games almost blacking out,” she said.
"We knew something wasn’t right throughout the season, but we just assumed it was seasonal or maybe an asthma flair up," coach Jennifer Perryman said. "But when things got worse, her parents were very proactive in getting her top notch doctors care."
Edwards, who will be a senior in August, was a fixture in Nixa’s starting lineup the past three seasons. The combo guard was the Lady Eagles’ undisputed go-to girl and an All-COC First-Team selection as a junior.
"When Emily came in my office and told me the diagnosis it was a very emotional moment," Perryman said. "It was heartbreaking for her as a dedicated athlete who truly loves the game, it was heartbreaking for me as a coach who loves her players and knows how vital she is to our program, it was heartbreaking for our team as they love and respect her as a leader and it was heartbreaking for the game of basketball because of the way she honors the game with her true passion and work ethic. What she does for our team on the court will truly be missed but we are very fortunate to have her contributing so much off the court."
Perryman plans to have Edwards courtside with her.
"She will transition into a student coach and be able to share her high basketball IQ with her teammates and be a mentor to our underclassmen," Perryman said. "Not many kids would handle this with the grace and maturity that Emily has demonstrated. It won’t surprise me at all when she uses this to help others in some way or another. We are just very lucky that we all get to watch her give her famous fist pump when a teammate does something well, even if it is from the sidelines and not running the point."
During her junior year, Edwards gave Rockhurst a verbal commitment to continue her playing career with the Lady Hawks.
Edwards’ older sister, Amy, already attends Rockhurst. Assuming she doesn’t play basketball again, Emily isn’t positive she will still go to Rockhurst.
“I’m not entirely sure, but that is the plan,” she said.
Nixa also lost a key cog for all of last winter, as Kelsey Biro missed her senior season due to hip surgery to repair a torn ligament. She will play in college at Henderson State (Arkansas).