Women’s Volleyball Player battles serious health issues; continues season

Quincy University women’s volleyball player, Erica Slinde, pushes through serious medical adversity amid the athlete’s season.

A struggle she’s faced her entire life, Erica is fighting her own demons on and off the court. With an extensive medical record, she is finding new ways to make an impact in the sport she loves. A constant battle of fighting for not only her time on the court but the health and safety of her body. For many, that statement just means slight minor issues such as an ankle twist but not her.

In August of 2011, Erica was diagnosed with type one diabetes. This seems to be her biggest day-to-day challenge as it directly affects the way she feels and it makes her bones increasingly more brittle and atrophies much faster than a normal young adult.

Along with type one diabetes, the list continues a hefty amount. She also battles with her left-sided pelvic reconstruction which consists of 3 metal plates, 25 screws and 4 pins inserted, and a T5-s1 spiral spinal fracture as a result of a car accident.

That is still not the end of the list: a jagged/pre-ruptured septum diagnosed in 2019, a septoplasty/rhinoplasty in 2020, and a diagnosis of a mass in the right sinus passage airway during the pandemic.

“Day to day life for me can consist of one, pain and two, trying to manage a chronic illness. Over the span of my volleyball career, I have run into issues with many concussions and other head injuries so pain is realistic for me. Keeping myself hydrated and relaxed is a big part of my life because other stressors only cause me more pain and having to take steps back. Being a type one diabetic is a full-time job because having to make sure my BG or blood glucose is in a safe range is 80-150 has to be constantly monitored and checked. My body can feel what my blood glucose is at this point in my life but needing to keep it in a range is very important for my health for the future and for day to day,” Slinde said.

Her journey has been anything but easy. She has had to change her mindset and grasp a new perspective. Shifting the way she approaches and chooses to tackle new elements has been the challenge. She has had to put her pride and dreams aside more often than she’d like to choose her health and safety first.

Volleyball has always been the dream, so Slinde is making sure not to let go of it too early.

“Throughout all my medical history volleyball has been the one thing that I can completely control,” said Slinde. “It’s a feeling of being able to always know I can achieve something bigger than myself and to defy obstacles that are put in front of me. Volleyball has also given me people that have stayed in my life and shown me happiness and love that ordinary school/college friends that I would not have without it.”

Slinde’s normal is far from the average. The constant changing and adapting is more than most can say they deal with. Continuing to push her limits and test boundaries is key to battling for Slinde as the alternative route is only that of failure, defeat, and allowing the challenges to run her life.

Surrounded by 23 other girls that care so deeply for her, Erica is here to stay and tell her story while she’s at it. Health issues are also at the back of most teammates’ minds as Slinde is a pro at working through it and not letting it affect her. Letting the fear get in the way of improvement is not in her future.

“Any outsider looking in would assume that she is just a normal player. She never complains. She never has a poor me attitude. She just comes in every day and works super hard. So I don’t think anyone would be able to tell. I don’t think she ever lets outside things come into volleyball or let them negatively affect her,” Makayla Knobaluh, teammate, said.

Choosing to continue chasing her dreams and what matters to her, Slinde has had to also reevaluate herself. Being more self-aware and knowing her body is important for her health in this continuous health battle and sports journey.

Choosing to put in the extra work and to find new ways to be involved is the perspective Slinde has chosen to take. She is always looking for new ways to push and challenge her team. By producing victories on and off the court along with setting an example herself, Slinde encourages her teammates to continue fighting for what they want.

“I’m so happy for Erica that she has found a new home. She has been through a lot of adversity but has continued to have a positive mindset. She’s a true competitor and a very good teammate. We are so lucky to have her be a part of our program at Quincy University,” head coach Mark Jones said.

Multiple medical conditions or not, Slinde continues to push beyond the reps and prove that she too is more than just an athlete.

No matter the condition she is in, Slinde refuses to give up. She is still her, medical challenges or not. The one thing out of reach from her medical conditions is her personality and character. Slinde has chosen herself and continues to take matters in a positive light.

Teammate or friend, practice partner player, or starting setter she is an athlete with an impact. The world is filled with talented athletes, but the world lacks selfless people and she has chosen to be just that.

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