Mandy Willmore (Photo Courtesy of School of Mines)

RAPID CITY — South Dakota School of Mines sophomore Mandy Willmore, an Interdisciplinary Science major from Rock Springs, Wyo., and member of the Lady Hardrockers women’s basketball team suffered a severe and rare spinal injury last week in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Wilmore, one of her teammates and Wilmore’s grandparents arrived in Hawaii a few days prior to the report date that had been established by Lady Hardrocker women’s basketball head coach Barb Felderman for training and the team’s participation in the annual Hoops-n-Surf Basketball Classic before the tournament.

After receiving her first ever surfing lesson in the non-team function last Thursday, Willmore, a guard for the Lady Hardrockers, collapsed about one hour after returning from the beach. She was immediately taken to a local hospital for evaluation where it was determined that she suffered Surfers Myelopathy, a extremely rare spinal injury that afflicts surfers, generally after their first surfing lesson. It was determined that Willmore’s condition caused nearly complete paralysis from the waist down.

Mandy Willmore (Photo Courtesy of the School of Mines)

Surfer’s Myelopathy is not an injury due to trauma or an accident but rather it is best described as a “spinal stroke” caused when blood supply to the spinal cord is interrupted because of hyperextension of the spinal column. There is no medication or surgery to treat the condition, but many patients do recover with time and physical therapy.

“This is one of those times in athletics we need to honestly ask ourselves, ‘why did this happen to such a great person?’ We all are in complete shock about the freakishness of this incident and the cause of her current health status,” said Hardrocker Athletics Director Dick Kaiser. “We are very hopeful for Mandy because we all know what a tough person she is and that she will work tirelessly to get better. It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family during this very difficult time.”

“Obviously this has been a very devastating blow to our entire Hardrocker basketball family,” said Lady Hardrocker women’s basketball head coach Barb Felderman. “Mandy has been a true team player and her loss is being felt by everyone. It is a very difficult situation right now but our ‘family’ spirit among the team will help keep us strong.”

Willmore will be leaving Honolulu sometime this week and will be transferring to Craig’s Hospital in Denver, Colo., an institution dedicated entirely to spinal cord injuries and rehabilitation.

Plans are in the works within the Lady Hardrocker basketball program to assist in putting together a number of fundraisers for Willmore and her family to help with the medical costs.