Woman trains for the Olympics while taking care of son with rare genetic disorder

Posted at 1:03 PM, Jun 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-29 15:03:09-04

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    Annapolis, MD (WMAR) — Emily Schelberg has a laundry list of experiences.

She is a military veteran who taught English to Iraqi and Sudanese refugees in Egypt. She got her Masters in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University and was a nurse practitioner in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

She has a clear passion for competition and sports. When she finished with the military, she got into Crossfit. Now, she coaches at 12 Labours Crossfit in Annapolis. Then she started looking for something a little more competitive. That’s when she found skeleton sled racing and discovered she was pretty good at it.

“I tried out and I was incredibly passionate from the start. You’re never going to find another outlet where you can go 80 miles an hour head first down a hill,” said Schelberg. “The focus that’s required to do that and be able to move your sled and not lose your cool and still be powerful was an incredible challenge and it keeps me motivated every day to get up and do it.”

She can only train on the ice between October and March so in the off season she trains in the gym.

“All you can do in the off season is become as fast and as powerful as you can,” Schelberg said.

Plus, memorizing tracks and becoming mentally prepared.

On top of training and work, she takes care of her almost two-year-old son, August.

August was born with Phenylketonuria, also known as PKU.

PKU is an extremely rare genetic disorder, where August can’t digest one of the amino acids in protein, phenylalanine. Essentially, if he gets too much of the phenylalanine in, then overtime it can harm his brain.

“It could cause intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems or mental disorders,” Shelberg said.

That’s why she has to track how much of the amino acid August gets every day.

“I think for any parent to get a diagnosis for their child that is something that can’t be cured is devastating,” Schelberg said. “Think of those days you wanted to stop your diet. Well, this is something he can’t quit.”

Schelberg’s husband, Matthew, is active military and is currently overseas. Schelberg said the only way she gets through is because of her family and friends.

“The reason is because of the community,” Schelberg said.

She said the moms at the gym watch August when she’s training and her brother helps out a lot too.

“It’s having the support of a family who believes in you and your goals and being able to rely on them,” Schelberg said. “I think the hardest part is putting your ego aside and asking for help when you need it.”

She’s focused on keeping her son healthy and making a skeleton team so she can compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

June 28 is International PKU Day. To learn more, go to

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