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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

A story of perseverance: McKenzie Schulz and an unexpected discovery

If it wasn’t for Ashland University’s return to play protocol and doctors at Indiana Health, Schulz’s life could be different today
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The Collegian
AU’s Mckenzie Schulz stands for a team photo ahead of the 2024 campaign. (Retrieved from AU Athletics with permission)

February is heart health month.

For Ashland University women’s lacrosse player, McKenzie Schulz, the month has a significant meaning after going through her own experience with heart disease.

Schulz has been playing lacrosse since the fourth grade and had noticed the shortness of breath but just assumed she was out of shape and didn’t think much of it.

This was until October of 2022 when she got COVID-19.

Ashland University requires a return to sports COVID-19 protocol for student-athletes to get back on the field and resume competition. The university ordered an EKG for Schulz, which then indicated something was off.

After months of more tests, a sports cardiologist at Indiana University Health discovered that the right side of her heart was double the size of the left. 

She was diagnosed with Partial Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (PAPVR) in 2023 and was told she needed surgery to repair the issue.

This came as a surprise discovery.

“I was in shock but it explained so much of my shortness of breath over the years,” she said. “My lungs were not getting the oxygen-rich blood needed because it was being misrouted to my heart.”

In response, on Friday, July 14, 2023, she underwent open heart surgery.

“My coach and my AU lax [lacrosse] family were so supportive throughout the process. I received cards, flowers, and so many prayers,” she said. 

As if the surgery wasn’t scary enough, Schulz was on the bypass machine for 56 minutes due to her heart stopping for 56 minutes to perform the procedure. However, just a couple of days after the surgery, she suffered three Transient Ischemic Attacks, mini-strokes, known as TIA.

“They [the doctors] had to do emergency surgery via my femoral artery to remove a blood clot in my brain,” she said. “I am so lucky the strokes did not cause lasting damage.”

Regardless of everything McKenzie has been through she likes to focus on the positive side of things. The entire experience has reminded her of why she chose to go to AU.

“After meeting several players and Coach Simko I could feel the supportive, close-knit family atmosphere,” she said.

She expressed her thankfulness to not only her teammates and friends but also her professors for being very understanding of how difficult the semester was going to be for her.

“It’s been tough for me to not have that physical outlet I’ve always known, only being able to walk for months after surgery was not the kind of exercise I craved,” she said. “It’s affected my mental health, and I appreciate the weekly meetings with [my] coach, support from my team, my friends and my family.” 

If it wasn’t for Ashland University’s return to play protocol and doctors at Indiana Health, Schulz’s life could be different today. 

“Throughout the years lacrosse has saved my life in more ways than one,” she said. “I know God had a hand in all of this, and in his time will return me to do great things on and off the lacrosse field.”  

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