12/19: Senior Standout - Capital's Shelby VanHemelryck - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

12/19: Senior Standout - Capital's Shelby VanHemelryck

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Shelby was born with a heart abnormality known as:

"Ventricular Septal Defect," VanHemelryck said.

As surgeons repaired the defect shortly after birth, they noticed she was having another problem with her heart.

"While they were repairing that they found a server aortic valve," VanHemelryck said.

Seventeen years later, she says her aortic valve is still having an issue.

"[Doctors] have been just trying to repair it, repair it, repair it, VanHemelryck said. "They just can't get it to that exact point where it's not leaking anymore."

Shelby says the biggest symptoms she experiences are chest pains and shortness of breath. She says there's no warning before the symptoms occur, but they arise most often while running. But for now, she is able to play hoops in her senior season with the Lady Bruins.

"Right now it's working pretty good and ticking well," VanHemelryck said, "and I can play which is pretty awesome."

In the past, Shelby says doctors had to perform six open-heart surgeries and insert a heart catheter. However, this year - four days after Christmas - she'll travel with her parents to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City so doctors can put in a stint. The senior is a bit nervous about her newest procedure.

"A little bit," VanHemelryck said. "Surgery with the heart that kind of freaks me out. But Salt Lake's great and they're pros and I don't have any doubt in them."

Shelby says if all is successful, she can experience her seventh and hopefully last open-heart surgery to insert a mechanical valve.

For now, Shelby uses basketball as an escape from reality. Her closest friend on the team is Sydney Sheridan, who's protective over her and cringes any time she takes a hit.

"It's actually the scariest thing in the world," Sheridan said. "I always get so nervous."

The inseparable friends share a bond that extends beyond the hardwood floor. They designed matching rubber bands online as a reminder of their friendship.

"This band on wrist is for me and my friend," Sheridan said. "It's like our motivation to work through the summer and get better."

On the court, head coach Bill Pilegram doesn't place any restrictions on Shelby. She can set screens and take charges, and watching her play inspires the team.

"She's a petite little lady but nobody has a strong heart than she does," Pilegram said. "She's put in the work, she's deserves it. She's overcome everything. This is right where she should be."

Shelby also plays softball and golf at Capital, missing her senior golf season because of her sixth open-heart surgery. To her, basketball represents a chance to act as a normal student athlete.

"It's just a getaway," VanHemelryck said. "I can still play softball and golf and everything, but being back on the court like a today and this year has just been awesome."

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