Breathe in, breathe out and bowl
Jun 02, 2017 11:20AM ● Published by Travis Barton
Emily Pelzer, a Hillcrest High freshman, bowls at Fat Cats in April. Pelzer had major lung reconstruction in January and will be heading to nationals in July. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
Gallery: Breathe in, breathe out and bowl [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
Midvale’s Emily Pelzer is a 15-year-old used to winning bowling championships, sending a 16 pound bowling ball down the lane. So, she wasn’t about to let dime-sized holes in her lung ruin her game.
“It’s the only hobby I felt like I could connect with and the only thing that makes me happy,” said Pelzer, who started bowling at age 7 at Big City Bowl. The Hillcrest High School freshman won the past seven Pepsi Youth Bowling championships and is now preparing for the Junior Gold Championships in Cleveland, Ohio July 15-22.
But at one point last year, she almost lost her chance to keep bowling.
One morning in September, Pelzer felt pains in her chest—pain strong enough to force her onto the floor and for her mom to rush her to the doctor.
“Heart rate was perfectly fine,” recalled Pelzer’s mother Sherry Harding. “(Then) they took a chest X-ray and they go ‘oh, you have holes the size of a dime.’”
Three of them. In her right lung.
Doctors rushed her in for a successful chest tube procedure and then every two weeks she had to go in for a check-up.
Pelzer was back bowling a week after the lung collapse, though she couldn’t last long due to the pain it caused in her chest.
“It got to the point where I need to get this fixed so I can continue bowling where I don't have to take any breaks,” she said. On average, she bowls five days a week and averages a score of 176 (the highest average in the high school league).
In January, Pelzer went in for major lung reconstruction surgery where surgeons repaired the dime-sized holes in her lungs.
“That was a scary situation,” Harding said of the lung surgery. “I didn’t know if she would ever be able to go back bowling because of her lungs, but she fought hard and kicked right back.”
The day after surgery, when Pelzer asked if she could go bowling, the nurse suggested she go to the play room and bowl with the plastic pins and a ball.
“She was like ‘that’s an insult to me,’” Harding recalled her daughter saying.
A few months later, recovered at 100 percent health, Pelzer won the qualifying tournament sending her to this summer’s nationals.
“[Her] one quote is ‘champions will always find a way to win.’ That has actually kind of kept her going since she had major lung reconstruction,” said her mom.
Pelzer has also broken both wrists, both prior to the lung surgery, one while skating and the other when she fell backwards, affecting her ability to bowl.
“Those are her trials,” Harding said.
Despite difficulties and broken bones, she’s earned a bowling scholarship to Texas A&M.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Pelzer said adding her first reaction to being offered a scholarship was to work harder.
“I was like ‘wow, I didn't even know I was this good…okay, I have to work harder now,’” she said.
For Harding, seeing her daughter’s progression has evoked constant happiness—from watching Pelzer win her first tournament to being set for college.
“I'm very proud of her for what she's done with bowling. I think she'll go far,” Harding said.
Pelzer may only be 15, but she knows exactly what she wants to do. Her aspirations include becoming an ultrasound technician and bowling coach, especially for people with disabilities.
“That would just make my life complete,” she said.
But, before she gets there, Pelzer has high school to complete and a national competition to attend. Prior to leaving Midvale, you’ll find her at Big City Bowl where she’ll be practicing and breathing deeply.