Given Camden Hurst’s family tree, it seemed only natural he started as a freshman for the Lancaster Mennonite boys basketball team last season.
His dad, Chad, was a starting senior guard on the 1991 Lancaster Mennonite team that was the Lancaster-Lebanon League tournament runner-up. His eldest brother, Cody, was a starting senior forward on the 2016 team that pushed powerhouse Trinity to overtime in the District Three Class 2A semifinals at Hershey’s Giant Center. Brother Carter was the starting senior point guard on the 2018 team that would have competed for a state championship if not for Richland's heartbreaking buzzer-beater in the PIAA semifinals.
“I always try to beat my older brothers,” Camden Hurst said. “But they always push me around.”
Many pickup games of one-on-one and two-on-two with his dad and brothers in the driveway of the family’s East Lampeter Township home had molded Camden Hurst, and he was ready to play varsity ball as a freshman in the 2019-20 campaign.
It showed in last season’s first 14 games, as Hurst, a 6-foot shooting guard, averaged 12.9 points, the second-best mark on the team. His stellar freshman season quickly took a turn, however, on Jan. 17, when Hurst awoke with tremendous pain in his spine and left hip.
He was unable to walk.
'He was dead weight'
Under the advisement of Dr. Patrick Moreno, a sports medicine doctor who’s contracted with Lancaster Mennonite through Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Colleen Hurst drove her son to meet Moreno at the LG Health Physicians Sports Medicine office in Lititz.
His parents carried Camden to and from the car.
“He was dead weight at that point,” Colleen Hurst said.
Thinking the muscles were seizing in Camden Hurst’s back, Moreno administered a shot of a muscle relaxer.
Hurst’s pain did not abate. A couple hours later, Moreno directed the family to go to the emergency room at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
To help manage his pain, Hurst was put on morphine within an hour of his arrival at LGH. After three magnetic resonance images, doctors determined Hurst would need to be rushed by ambulance to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where spinal specialists would have a better idea on how to treat him.
At CHOP, Hurst was given methadone to get his pain under control and a high-level anti-inflammatory to loosen the muscles in his back. Further scans soon determined Hurst had a fractured L5 vertebrae.
“But doctors believe that was unrelated,” Colleen Hurst said. “He may have had that fractured vertebrae from a basketball injury.”
Ultimately, doctors believe a virus in Camden Hurst’s left hip caused the initial flareup in his hip and spine, but an exact cause couldn't be pinpointed. Another six days passed before Hurst was discharged from CHOP. But he was far from being out of the woods.
“They had told us it would be another month until he was off the walker,” Chad Hurst said. “And six months until he could play basketball again.”
'I was scared to push it'
On his path to recovery over the last six months, Hurst has been put through his paces by Lancaster Mennonite athletic trainer Ann Seaton and CPRS physical therapist Melinda Hoover.
“When I started out with him, he wasn’t able to walk very far,” Seaton said. “I started from the very beginning with breathing exercises to engage his core. I was amazed each day. He came back and was able to do things where I was like, ‘Oh, you’re able to do that today? Then let’s try this new exercise.’”
He progressed so rapidly that by early March, about two months after he'd gone to the emergency room, Hurst returned to the court with his Class of 2023 Central PA Elite team, an AAU basketball squad based out of Harrisburg.
“When I first started again in March I was definitely hesitant,” Hurst said. “Like jumping off my left foot, I feel like I didn’t get as much height. I was scared to push it.”
Ultimately, though, Hurst didn't have to make a decsion on taking additional time away from the court. The COVID-19 pandemic did it for him, as it put the AAU season on hold in mid-March.
The team only returned to action last week, and Hurst was back with it. The layoff was the perfect medicine for Hurst, who has been continuing with physical therapy and now stretches every morning when he wakes up and every night before bed.
Hurst, 15, said he finally felt back to 100% “about a couple weeks ago.”
In his formative teenage years, the last six months have been an important lesson.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Hurst said. “Just like that, in a moment, I was in the hospital for a week.”