A disabled Siouxland teen credits basketball for new perspective - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

A disabled Siouxland teen credits basketball for new perspective on life

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Mackenzie Voecks is persuing her love of basketball. Mackenzie Voecks is persuing her love of basketball.
STANTON, Neb. (KTIV/US92) - Five years after a debilitating condition changed a Siouxlander's life forever, she and her family are crediting the sport of basketball for giving her a whole new perspective on life.  

It was five years ago this May, that the life of then 11-year-old MacKenzie Voecks of Stanton, Nebraska changed forever.

"I was sitting in the car, because I was going to the hospital with my mom because my back was hurting, and I went to get out and couldn't stand," says MacKenzie Voecks.

"I had to get a wheelchair to get her in," says Tonya Voecks, MacKenzie's mother.  "As it progressed, we got back to her room and it was getting worse."

MacKenzie was eventually diagnosed with a condition known as transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder that affects about 33,000 Americans.  It was over the course of months of treatment and rehab that the former basketball and volleyball player learned that she would never walk again.

"It's scary, because you don't know what caused it or what happened," says MacKenzie.

MacKenzie's parents say while the physical changes in their daughter were obvious, it was the change in her demeanor that was most troubling.

"They always rode four-wheelers," says Kyle Voecks, MacKenzie's father.  "They have a four-wheeler they ride around.  She wouldn't want anything to do with it.  Certain things, and that was one of them, she would just say she couldn't do it."

All of that changed when MacKenzie turned to one of her first loves, basketball.

"I was in the hospital in Lincoln and one of my teammates now was in the hospital prior to me," says MacKenzie.  "He told me about it and after a few years, I tried it and decided I wanted to play."

"She said, 'I want to play ball, and I want to do this and this.'  I was like, 'Who are you?'  After that we had a different kid," says Tonya.

MacKenzie just wrapped up her second year with the Nebraska Red Dawgs, a wheelchair basketball team based out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.  Members of the Red Dawgs just took part in their second straight trip to the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky where they finished fourth.  MacKenzie says the Red Dawgs have granted her a sense of belonging she didn't have before.

"It shows you that you can do anything you did before," says MacKenzie.  "It doesn't change anything."

MacKenzie's parents say that while she may never walk again, her time with the Red Dawgs has given them their old daughter back.

"I just don't know what we would do if we weren't on this team," says Tonya.

MacKenzie has two more years of high school left.  After that, says she wants to keep playing wheelchair basketball at the collegiate level.  Her parents say that there's already been interest from some schools in having MacKenzie play for them at the next level.

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