ANNAPOLIS – Basketball player Rayna DuBose faced her toughest competition last April, but it wasn’t on the court.
The struggle came in the hospital, where DuBose battled meningococcal meningitis, a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection. She suffered a heart attack, collapsed lungs, 10 operations and amputation of her limbs.
Nearly a year later, the Columbia, Md., woman was named the “most courageous” college basketball player in the country, and on Tuesday she was honored by the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
DuBose, 19, was barely finished with her first college basketball season at Virginia Tech, when she was stricken with the disease.
When she fell ill she recalled “waking up (in the hospital) and asking my coach if my scholarship was still good.”
It was the last thing she needed to worry about as her health and not basketball took center stage for the promising basketball player and her family.
The lowest point for her was “probably when I first learned I had to get everything amputated,” she said.
After surviving multiple operations, she was fitted with prostheses and is continuing therapy sessions.
“Faith has brought us this far, we put it all in his hands,” said her father Willie DuBose, “We don’t look back, what’s done is done.”
DuBose was a dominant player at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, where she became the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“I understand she was a female Michael Jordan,” said Delegate Emmett Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County. “An erstwhile basketball player who came into that kind of tragedy is unimaginable.”
Her extraordinary survival story prompted flattering words from the governor, who was on a rare visit to the House.
“You were a role model when you were scoring big points,” Ehrlich said to the honoree, “but you are a better role model now than you ever have been.”
The Most Courageous Award is given to a person in college basketball who has shown extraordinary courage in facing adversity, said Joe Mitch, executive director of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the award’s sponsor.
DuBose will be honored at the Men’s Final Four round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament April 7 in New Orleans, Mitch said.
“Anybody who would be able to come back from such a devastating experience . . . it’s phenomenal,” said Sen. Sandra Schrader, R-Howard.
Schrader, who represents the district where DuBose lives with her parents, sponsored a resolution commending her for her achievement.
“She’s overcome tremendous odds (and) she has triumphed where many of us will not,” said Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel. While DuBose won’t be playing basketball for Va. Tech, she will still be a part of the Hokies’ basketball team as a student-coach.
She plans to return to Virginia Tech in May for summer classes. But in the meantime she is catching up on her studies with the help of an online course run by the school.
“(I’ve learned to) live each day to the fullest,” DuBose said, “(And) never take anything for granted.”