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Clarke bounces back from life threatening illness

Sydney Clarke has always been a dedicated athlete and even while recovering from a life-threatening illness.
Sydney Clarke is a member of the Penticton Lakers basketball team again this season after overcoming severe health issues earlier in life. Her dedicaion

Sydney Clarke has always been a dedicated athlete and even while recovering from a life-threatening illness, she was not about to be pushed to the sidelines.

Two years ago during a summer basketball camp, Sydney, now in Grade 12 at Pen High, was rushed to hospital suffering from multiple cardiac arrests and kidney failure.

Basically her body had turned toxic.

The Crohn’s disease diagnosis resulted in multiple surgeries and months in the hospital but eventually she was able to return to school part-time mid-term.

Unable then to play the sports she loved, Sydney took on the role as impromptu manager, cheering for her teammates and keeping stats.

“I was actually not going to play in Grade 11 or 12 then my coach (Lesley Lacroix) said well at least try and if you don’t make it at least you tried,” recalled Sydney. “So when I came back for basketball in Grade 11, I was a lot further behind than everyone else was and that was the same for soccer as well.

“It was just a lot of hard work. I went from one of the better players to down low and that’s really hard on your self confidence and that’s probably what I struggled with most.”

Still she persevered and even on those days when she felt like throwing in the towel did not give up.

And not surprising to those who know her, she made the team.

“Sydney is a very driven and motivated athlete. She did not want to get any special treatment because of her health issues,” said Lacroix. “She went from being one of the best players on her team to being one of the worst. She didn’t want to think about it and came back to the game full of humility.”

Like others who have faced similar issues, her experiences have significantly altered her outlook.

“What happened shaped my life and it changed the person that I am. I see life differently now and realize just how much we take things for granted,” said Sydney. “I was sad to see how my illness affected my family and wished I could have taken away their pain.”

Her efforts over the past two years have not gone unnoticed and she recently received the Student of the Month Award, an initiative between the Rotary Club of Penticton-Okanagan in partnership with Penticton Secondary aided by a generous financial contribution from Gateway Casinos as part of their proactive involvement in wide-ranging community service projects.

“It’s totally cool to be recognized for something like this. A lot of the time you see people in the paper for getting all the points so it’s nice to get recognition for your hard work,” said Sydney.

Admittedly she still thinks about the “what if” factor, but chooses to look ahead to what the future holds and credits the support of her friends, family and others for helping her keep that positive outlook.

“Right now I think I’m going to take the next year off because I haven’t really decided what I want to do but I think I may want to do nursing and I also play the piano too, so I would like to get my music degree,” said Sydney.

Those who know her best believe whatever she decides, her determination and hard work will propel her to the top of any field.