‘We did it:’ Seizures don’t keep Emma Whiting down
Up until six months ago, life was happily busy for Emma Whiting.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Valley High School senior was well on her way to finishing up her final year.
Then something unusual happened.
“It was crazy,” Whiting, 17, said. “I was in a class, and my right arm went numb. And I was like, ‘Well, that’s weird, that’s odd. I should fix that.’ And then all of a sudden, my arms started shaking and seizing.”
Whiting decided to go home that day.
“By that night, I was having full-blown seizures,” she said. “So we went to the ER.”
After visiting a series of doctors and neurologists, Whiting eventually discovered that the unexpected convulsions turned out to be the early signs of a hormone imbalance.
Whiting’s life then began to seem a bit different than her normal routine. Soon, she was attending just one class a day and had to do so in a wheelchair.
“I wasn’t able to eat in our lunchroom for the second half of the year because my wheelchair didn’t fit, and I couldn’t be somewhere without my wheelchair,” she said. “I could seize out onto the floor and hurt myself.”
One day Whiting was sitting in the conference room during lunch. She was crying, on the phone with her mother Mindy, she said. But almost as if a guardian angel suddenly appeared, volleyball coach, athletics director and vice-principal David Walck walked in the room and asked a life-changing question.
“What do we need to do to get you playing volleyball?” Walck asked Whiting, who’s played and loved the sport nearly her whole life.
Because of the global pandemic, fall volleyball was pushed back into winter due to safety precautions.
Whiting hung tough, enduring a regular regimen of about four seizures a day, and was back in class full time. After Walck worked with Whiting, the Cardinals senior eventually got permission from her doctor and the school to spend her final year of high school playing the sport she loves.
In the meantime, Whiting’s father, Chad, a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy, would take three months off of work to spend time with his daughter.
Things were a bit tough at first for the 6-foot, 2-inch middle blocker. A couple of times, she was sent home from practice, she said. Other times, the seizures suddenly came on during live gameplay.
“But we did it,” Whiting said. “I played volleyball, I would seize on the floor, and there was several times people would be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, do we need to call 911?’ We’re like, ‘No, it’s OK,’ and I’d just go, like, right back out onto the floor.”
About two weeks ago, Whiting, who’s going to finish high school with a 3.898-grade point average, didn’t know exactly what her college plans were.
But on May 14, Mount Marty University in Yankton, South Dakota, reached out to Whiting and offered her a scholarship to play collegiate volleyball.
Whiting, of course, accepted.
“I’m looking forward to college,” she said. “I just love the idea of college and college itself. … I am excited for life.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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