Swimming through trials: The story of Amanda Rowe

Courtesy Creative Commons

Senior Pepperdine swimmer Amanda Rowe continues to break records after enduring three brain surgeries in the span of one year.

For most freshmen moving away from home for the first time, learning to manage time properly, and the desire to keep a decent GPA is the extent of first-year problems in college. But for one team member of the Pepperdine Women’s swim and dive team these were the least of her worries. Amanda Rowe came into Pepperdine her freshman year as any other student did, but the year to come would be one of the most challenging she may ever have to face.

“I remember sitting in the hall on the phone with my dad and I was like, ‘Dad I think I need to go to the ER like now,’” Rowe recalled.

From the time Rowe was born she has had a cyst in her brain. And when she was only a couple months old she underwent surgery to have a shunt placed into her brain to drain the fluid down into her stomach. For years she lived without any problems and figured everything was working the way it was supposed. Until Nov. 26, 2012 of her freshman year when she began to experience pain in her head that she at first attributed to an intense swim practice.

Rowe decided she thought it would be best to go to the doctors just to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. After hours of CT scans and MRIs the doctors then determined that the pump of the shunt in her brain was the issue and that if they removed it the issue would subside. The next morning they scheduled her for brain surgery and removed the pump of the shunt.

“It was nerve wracking definitely. We were all scared for her,” teammate Jessica Mossbaugh explained.

Raring to get back into the water, Rowe took small steps to get back into the pool within a few short weeks. She went to rehab for a couple weeks and would bike in small increments on the side in the hopes of being ready for the water sooner.

But soon thereafter she started experiencing the same symptoms all over again, this time they were more severe. Doctors found that the cyst in her brain was actually five to six smaller cysts that had all grouped together. Only a few of the cysts were actually draining properly, and a second surgery was the only viable solution.

“That one I was a little more scared about,” Rowe said.

Things were looking up after surgery No. 2 and Rowe was scheduled to begin pool workouts after six weeks.

“I couldn’t really do anything at first,” Rowe recalls. “I could swim a 200, I think I could swim it in increments of 50. Which is nothing in the scheme of an entire workout.”

But as time went on Rowe was able to compete once again. It wasn’t until fall 2013, during Rowe’s sophomore year at Pepperdine, that she started feeling the pain in her head return. It started to bother her so badly she wasn’t even able to wear her swim cap comfortably.

“I was like, I can’t do my sport if I can’t even wear a swim cap,” Rowe said.

This time the doctors found that she had the start of a neuroma. A neuroma is when nerves will grow and intertwine together causing pressure, nerve damage, and ultimately pain. Once again, the doctors determined that the best thing for Rowe would be another surgery. On Oct. 3 they removed the neuroma and cut the nerve completely.

“There is a spot on the back of my head that I can’t feel,” Rowe laughed.

The third surgery was a success and Rowe was able to get back in the pool for good. Her roommate, suitemates and teammates were all there to cheer her on as she entered the pool to do the thing she does best.

“She’s really an inspiration to alot of people,” Mosbaugh said.

Rowe hopes the surgeries are done for good and explains that she believes God’s plan for her life is what has gotten her this far.

Olivia Kaye Losoya completed this story in Dr. Ken Waters spring 2016 Jour 590 course on sports journalism.