AIKEN, SC -- Athletics have the power to inspire fans in many different ways. Whether it be due to a team's success or an individual performance, it's nice to have someone or something to root for.
At the college level, young athletes have to balance perfecting their craft while also focusing first on their education. That alone is plenty to balance. For USC Aiken senior volleyball player Kelsey Spurlin, that's only a small part of her battle.
"I knew from a young age my life looked different, but that didn't mean that had to affect everything. That didn't mean that I had to shut down," said Spurlin.
Spurlin's first diagnosed medical issue came at age four. She was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura: a condition where her body attacked its own blood platelets. Spurlin had to undergo treatment at a hospital every 4-5 weeks from age four until her sophomore year of high school.
While dealing with her blood disorder, Spurlin's vision in her right eye progressively became worse.
"I was born with my optic nerve partially disconnected and I've been losing blood flow ever since."
It's hard for Kelsey to make out anything other than colors in her right eye now. Despite the vision loss, Spurlin found a way to keep playing. She switched positions from outside hitter to right side so she could see the ball coming more easily.
Her volleyball career at USC Aiken nearly never took off. During her freshman year with the team, Spurlin began experiencing chest tightness.
"They found me unconscious in my dorm. That was the first time I felt anything with my chest at all."
After seeing a number of cardiologists and undergoing a cardiac ablation, Spurlin was still experiencing symptoms. She underwent further testing at Emory University and was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, better known as "pots." The condition explained why her irregular heart beat and why standing up could make her feel light headed, and even faint.
Through medication and lifestyle changes, Kelsey has been able to return to the court and be a role player for the pacers this season. The road to healthy play hasn't been an easy one, and the start of this season was particular rough.
"Missing the first 13 games of my senior year was a pretty low point. It was tough, it was heart breaking, but I knew that I wasn't done."
Outside of volleyball, Spurlin is inolved in various clubs at USC Aiken. She maintains a 4.0 GPA and had been named the secondary education major of the year for the 2017-18 school year. Her hope now is to inspire others to never quit, no matter the circumstances.
"I have this story for a reason, and if I can use it to impact anyone else, then that's my reason."
With all of the ups and downs with her health, Spurlin credits God, her parents, and her teammates for helping her get through all of the adversity. The Pacers are currently first in the Peach Belt conference standings and are 23-2 overall this season. Spurlin has decided to make this her last year so she can begin her Masters in education.