UC-Clermont, Clermont Northeastern’s Rapp redefines meaning of perseverance

UC-Clermont’s Dawn Rapp, a CNE grad, has overcome a lot in her five years as a Lady Cougar.

Dawn Rapp has been through more in her 22 years than most people go through in an entire lifetime, but nothing was going to stop her from playing four years of college basketball.


A 2007 graduate of Clermont Northeastern High School, Rapp suffered her first set back in January of 2007 when she suffered a Cavernous hemangioma during her senior year at CNE. A Cavernous hemagnioma is characterized by grossly large dilated blood vessel, most often found on the brain that fills with stagnant blood.

“They are congenital so a lot of people are born with them, but don’t know they have them,” Rapp explained. “They just bleed and reabsorb usually, but mine bled to the point where it caused me to have a grand mal seizure.

“I was getting ready for a basketball game and felt different. It wasn’t a headache, but I knew something was wrong. I went to urgent care and my leg was going numb and lost control and feeling of it and then the next thing I knew I was seizing for about a minute and a half.”

Rapp was then treated at Children’s Hospital and even put into the Intensive Care Unit when they realized what was going on. Rapp had the choice to undergo surgery or to go on medicine for two years. She opted for the surgery.

Rapp had surgery 10 days following the seizure and was out of the hospital the day following the operation, but the recovery process took a few months.

Prior to the hemagnioma, Rapp had planned on attending the College at Mount St. Joseph, but following the hemagnioma, Rapp wanted to stay closer to home. Her coaches at CNE hooked her up with Coach Mike Matthews at UC-Clermont to have her come in and play at some open gyms.

“I really like it and it was only 10 minutes away from my house so I felt like my parents come watch us play and I would be close in case anything happened,” Rapp said.

Rapp began her career at Clermont just months after her hemagnioma, but she was still feeling some side effects.

“During her freshman year, I could only play her a few minutes a game because of headaches,” Matthews said. “It was frustrating because she was doing so well in practice, but we had to play it safe.”

During her sophomore season, Rapp began to get stronger and gain her confidence back as her headaches subsided. She really flourished in her junior year as she led the team in scoring.

Rapp then hit another setback.

On her way home from a camping trip with some family friends on Memorial Day of 2010, the car Rapp was in was rear-ended by a pickup truck going 55 or 60 miles per hour.

With Rapp in the back seat, she received the bulk of the impact.

She suffered a concussion fracture of her 10th and 11th thoracic vertebrae.

“One was cracked, one was compressed, all of my muscles were torn,” Rapp said. “Bone fragments were floating around my spinal column, so it was really close to my spinal cord. It should have left me paralyzed, but somehow I got lucky.”

The recovery period for that injury was “terrible” according to Rapp. She had to have the vertebrae fused together and wear a full back brace for three months. She considers herself still in recovery, but with two rods and eight screws she still feels the affects.

Still, after all she had been through, Rapp was still determined to make it back onto the court.

“I set a goal early on when I first started playing college basketball that no matter what happened, I was going to stick with it and play four years of college basketball,” Rapp said. “When that happened – I’m really stubborn – I just wanted to prove everybody wrong and show them that no matter what if you put your mind to something, you can do it.”

Rapp did come back and played a key role in the Lady Cougars 29-13 season in 2012, but it wasn’t without one final setback.

As Clermont geared up for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Tournament, Rapp turned her ankle in practice. Only able to participate in one practice before the tournament, Coach Matthews said that Rapp was hesitant to go into the game because she didn’t want to hurt the team.

“I’m always a team player no matter what,” Rapp said. “I don’t like to be selfish and I understood that my role had changed because I wasn’t healthy, so I took on another role.”

The Lady Cougars ended the tournament winning the third place game and tying a school record with 29 wins.

Rapp’s journey is just beginning, however. She completed her medical assisting as a multi-skilled health technician over her first three years and is now working to complete her bachelor’s degree in health sciences, specializing in sports and biomechanics, which is basically pre-physical therapy.

Rapp is scheduled to graduate in Spring of 2013 and if her past is any indication, there is nothing that will get in her way of achieving that goal.