On April 21, 2010, Allan Chaney collapsed and lost consciousness while completing drills on the Virginia Tech practice floor. Over the next year, he visited specialists up and down the East Coast, some of whom said his basketball career might be over. This past August, Virginia Tech’s sports medicine department announced it would never allow Chaney to practice or compete with the school’s basketball team because of complications from viral myocarditis, an infection of the heart that causes inflammation and, in some cases, can be fatal.
That didn’t deter Chaney: In early November, he had a new type of defibrilator implanted, one that recognizes irregular heartbeats and shocks the heart back to normal. But even the University of Pennsylvania cardiologist who oversaw the procedure can’t be 100 percent certain Chaney’s heart won’t falter again.
For Chaney, though, this journey isn’t about risking his life. Hellbent on becoming the only person in the country to play Division I basketball with a defibrillator in his chest, this is his life.
“It hurts bad because I’m so close but this far away,” Chaney said. “I think right now with somebody actually coaching me and working me out, I’m ready to go play professional with men. But I want to play in college. I just hope somebody will give me a chance.”
‘I cried a little bit’
Since transferring to Virginia Tech from Florida in May 2009, Chaney had wowed his new teammates in practice (NCAA transfer rules prevented him from playing in games). Coach Seth Greenberg was convinced that the 6-foot-9 forward “had a chance to become a first-round pick” in the NBA draft.
But about 45 minutes into that fateful April offseason workout, Chaney stepped to the free throw line and “couldn’t breathe.” At first he thought it was just from being out of shape. But when Chaney couldn’t catch his breath, he walked over to the sideline and sat down.
A manager asked if he wanted some water, and Chaney’s last memory is responding, “Yes.” Chaney then fell from his chair with the ball still in his hands, and “someone told me I was making noises even though I was passed out.”
Trainer Amy Kunigonis administered CPR to revive Chaney, and doctors initially thought it was simply a case of severe dehydration. But following a day of cardiac tests, they determined Chaney had viral myocarditis.
“But to me, I felt okay,” Chaney said. “I didn’t think that I had a problem because I didn’t have any symptoms. I wasn’t feeling sluggish and down.”