MEET THE MAVS

MEET THE MAVS

This Kidwell-sponsored content series highlights the unique stories of UNO student-athletes that have built a special connection to our city and community.

MEET THE MAVS

This Kidwell-sponsored content series highlights the unique stories of UNO student-athletes that have built a special connection to our city and community.

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

As student-athletes, we sometimes feel as if we’re invincible.

It’s a mentality that’s necessary at times, especially at the DI level when you’re competing against the best of the best.

When I entered my sophomore season on the UNO swim team, I was healthy, strong, and more determined than ever to make my mark on this program.

Life, however, has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans when you least expect it.

As I was getting ready to compete at the conference championships during the tail-end of my sophomore season, I didn’t feel “right.”

I thought it was just a bug that would go away after a few days, but it turned out to be much more serious.

I was diagnosed with a stomach virus that caused multiple complications, resulting in a week’s stay in the hospital, practically being bedridden.

When I finally got out of the hospital, I lost 15 pounds and couldn’t have felt weaker. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the season, but truthfully, I was wondering if I’d ever be able to be an athlete again.

Starting from square one

It was around three months later when I made an attempt to return to the pool. In my first practice back, I remember I could barely do a flip turn.

At that point, my coaches saw how weak I still was and that I needed to start from square one.

For the next month or so, I worked with the trainers to build my conditioning and stamina back up. They also helped me practice my flip turns and made sure I had the strength to start doing them again.

In addition to building up my strength and stamina, since I was recovering from a stomach virus, I had a strict diet and had to pay close attention to what I ate.

Swimming is also one of those activities that burns a ton of calories, so you have to make sure you’re fueling your body.

So, I had to find the balance between what I could and couldn’t eat to give me the strength I needed to make a full-fledged return.

Continuing my purpose

At my lowest moments, it was my involvement away from the pool that actually pushed me through these tribulations best.

I love swimming, but I’ve never defined myself as just a swimmer.

I’ve always known I have a higher purpose than that.

One of those purposes is to help people.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved making a positive impact on people in any way that I can. That’s one of the reasons I plan on attending medical school upon graduation from UNO.

Throughout my recovery, I was still able to volunteer weekly through a non-profit called RISE. The goal of the organization is to help facilitate people back into the community after lengthy imprisonment.

Some of these people have been in prison for up to twenty years.

With technology having changed so drastically during that time, one of my tasks is helping them set up their email and cell phone so they have the necessary resources they need to be successful once they’re released.

While my swimming career was put in serious question, I was able to have that fulfillment of making an impact in people’s lives through RISE.

It’s exactly what I needed to get me through some of the toughest times.

At my lowest moments, it was my involvement away from the pool that actually pushed me through these tribulations best. I love swimming, but I've never defined myself as just a swimmer. I've always known I have a higher purpose than that. One of those purposes is to help people.

Unwavering support

I didn’t realize how much support I had until I was bedridden in a hospital bed without the strength to stand on my own.

I don’t like drawing attention to myself, or people feeling sorry for me, so I kept my illness fairly quiet. It wasn’t until I was hospitalized that I told my coaches about what was going on with the severity of my stomach virus.

After I explained the details of my situation, I was overwhelmed by all the people that came to visit me. To be honest with you, I lost count of everyone that took the time to see me.

It’s not that I didn’t know it before, but this brought me to the realization of how special the community here in Omaha and UNO is.

Whether it was my teammates, coaches, trainers, or professors, everyone was beyond accommodating and understood my limitations as I made my recovery.

With my family being a few hours away back home in Hastings, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through this without the support of my Omaha people.

It’s a community that’s blessed me — and continues to bless me — in more ways than I ever thought possible.

Reaching a breakthrough

Over the summer months, I worked with my coaches and trainers in pacing myself and doing everything I could not only to return to the pool, but to be my old self.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect for the 22-23 season.

What I did know was that I was going to give it everything I had, and I knew I had the backing of so many different people on my team and community.

To my amazement, it turned into a breakthrough season when I was a part of the 400-yard free relay team that broke a school record at the conference championships.

It’s still surreal to think about because before my virus had sidelined me, I felt like I had hit a plateau in my swimming career. I was doing everything in and out of the pool to get better, but my times weren’t improving.

I hadn’t had a PR since high school, so to set a PR in a season I initially wasn’t sure I’d even be able or healthy enough to compete is a memory I’ll never forget.

Doing more

As proud as I am of how far I’ve come in the last year, I feel like there is more I can do.

In fact, there is more I want to do.

One project that challenges me in all the best ways is my global research for children with fetal alcohol syndrome.

I’m working with a doctor who collected data in Cape Town, South Africa, where the prevalence rate of fetal alcohol syndrome is around 30%.

Our ultimate goal is to create an app that essentially uses facial recognition to diagnose children from remote locations to prevent doctors from having to travel.

It’s been a long and complex process, but I’m confident the end result will be rewarding and make a monumental impact on the lives of many different children.

If there’s anything I learned from being stuck in a hospital bed for a week, it’s that there are always people that have it worse.

Whether it’s through RISE, my research project, or my future career in the medical field, I want to support and uplift as many people as I can.

Just as so many people have supported and uplifted me when I needed it the most.