By Madeline Lloyd
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
An athlete requires both a healthy body and a strong-willed mind to succeed. When physical strength deteriorates, it is mental toughness that causes one to either push forward or quit.
Baylor power forward Mariah "Miracle" Chandler demonstrates that the power of a strong, unrestricted mind can carry one farther than the strengths of a healthy body.
The Atlanta, Ga., redshirt junior was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW) at the age of seven. WPW is a disorder of the heart caused by the presence of an abnormal accessory electrical conduction pathway located between the atria and the ventricles. Electrical signals travelling down this pathway may stimulate the ventricles to contract prematurely, resulting in a disruption of the heart's normal rhythm.
"I've had 6 heart surgeries to correct the problem," Chandler said. "It is not fully healed. Yes, I play basketball, but my heart does not limit me in any kind of way. The doctors say the electrical pathway can come back at any time, but people can die at any moment so why limit myself?"
Chandler has possessed this unyielding toughness since birth. After her first heart surgery, doctors pronounced her dead. Her heart stopped beating for about a minute, but resumed after her mother began to pray. She was deemed a miracle baby, and the nickname has stuck with her ever since.
Although Chandler doesn't allow WPW to control her life now, it did have a major influence on her adolescent years. Symptoms of her medication caused her to develop a deep voice and to grow rapidly at a young age. A 5'2 second grader is bound to attract a great deal of attention.
"As a kid I would see other kids playing around outside and with their family," Changler said. "I really couldn't do anything. I had to wear a heart monitor every day to school. I had to get looked at all the time. The medicine I had to take caused me to be different. I grew faster than the average kid, my voice was deeper and I was walking around with a big heart monitor on the side of me. Kids would just look at me."
Once Chandler began to play basketball, however, she learned to view her differences as blessings. Children her age accepted her as a unique individual with unparalleled talent.
Just as Chandler learned to accept her condition and live without boundaries, she's learned to live a healthy, yet competitive life now.
"I have never seen Mariah's heart condition limit her," Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. "She is one of the hardest workers on the team and a very vocal person on the court. Also, when she redshirted last season, she was our biggest cheerleader. She is a very inspiring person."
Although Chandler doesn't broadcast her story, the Baylor women's basketball team is aware of her condition and possesses a great deal of respect for her commitment and sacrifice.
"Mariah is one of the biggest cheerleaders and one of our most vocal leaders on the team," Baylor senior forward Destiny Williams said. "She is really uplifting to all of us."
Chandler has been playing with Baylor stars such as Williams, Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims since her freshman year.
"We're a big group of kids, we like to have fun," Chandler said. "We enjoy each other's company. We can have fun off the court and on the court, but on the court we take care of business."
Although she redshirted last year, Chandler is working hard to rebuild her presence on the court.
"After sitting out last season, Mariah continues to improve on the court," Williams said. "She's just now getting back into the flow of things. She will just continue to get better and better, mainly because she's such a hard worker."
Chandler is considered a hard worker off the court as well. Besides basketball, her passion is making movies. She has operated a camera at selected Baylor volleyball contests in order to gain experience as a film and digital media major. Miracle aspires to open her own movie production company after graduation, already referring to it as Miracle Productions.
Although being a producer is a big aspiration, there is little doubt Chandler will succeed. She has proved her mental toughness and capabilities time and time again.
"A few of my teachers have told me to continue to be motivated," Chandler said. "Be hungry for anything. Remember that God has brought you here for a reason and only He knows that reason. So don't let anyone stop you from reaching His goal."
Chandler will continue reaching her goals while living a life unlimited by her condition. Her life story already is a miracle and she still has many blank pages to fill.