Kansas Teen Shot Hoops in Meningitis-Induced Coma
In the fall of her freshman year of senior high school, Meier got meningitis, a bacterial disease that spurred swelling in her brain and sparked terrifying seizures in the healthy student athlete.
"I'll remember it, " said Meier's mom, Margaret, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse. "Her eyes rolled right back, and I knew that which was happening. It had been terrifying. "
That seizure, the initial of 20 that night, marked the beginning of a 100-day hospital stay for then-14-year-old Meier of Overland Park, Kan., most of which she spent in a coma.
"Seeing her each day, not getting much better, it had been horrible, " Margaret said, detailing the tubes that delivered nourishment and life-saving medications to her unresponsive daughter. "But she'd do things that would make us know she was still there. "
Although Meier couldn't talk or walk in her trancelike state, she could still shoot hoops.
"She would wake up for just two to five minutes and shoot the ball, then be completely from it again, " said Margaret, describing an ideal swish of a beach ball through the makeshift net of Meier's sister's arms. "That's whenever we knew we were going to get her right back, and obtain her right back completely. "
Meier's neurologist, Dr . William Graf, said he'd never seen any such thing enjoy it.
"It was just incredible, " said Graf, now a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. "She couldn't walk or eat, had no basic functions, but still had this perfect shooting motion. It had been engrained. "
The severe swelling in Meier's brain had disrupted the connections between nerve cells, and there was no guarantee those connections would ever be restored.
When Meier's immune system cleared the disease and she finally woke up, she had to relearn everything -- how to walk, talk, read and behave -- from scratch.
"She was very childlike, " said Margaret Meier, describing the tendency of children to "just say whatever they want" without inhibition. "All those social things you learn over a long time, she had to relearn. And she had some aggressive behaviors, especially towards me. "
Over 8 weeks of intensive rehab, and with the unwavering support of her parents and five siblings, Meier slowly returned.
"It wasn't easy, " her mom said, recalling the violent outbursts and the have to install special locks on all the doors. "It was months and months of intense work. "
Five months after she was hospitalized, Meier returned to Blue Valley Northwest Senior high school, where she got one-on-one instruction from the special education teacher in addition to physical and occupational therapy. Her spot on the basketball team bench was lovingly marked with a sign and her teammates wore beads on the shoes with her initials.
"Basketball was hugely essential in her recovery, " said Margaret. "It's been such a major section of her life since third grade, and she always wanted to make contact with it. "
And in her sophomore year, she did, earning an area on the Huskies' junior varsity team. Another season, Meier joined the varsity squad. And on Monday, her high school's Senior Night, the 17-year-old was area of the starting lineup.
"To see where she is now, after what she's been through, " said Margaret, voice shaking, "she's just such a great kid. "
In the fall, Meier will start college at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where she plans to major in nursing or special education. Her mom can't imagine an improved fit. "She can really relate, " she said.
Whether Meier will play college ball is still up in the air, given her certainly hectic class schedule and busy social life. But her mom is confident she can do any such thing she puts her mind to.
"If she really wants to play ball, we'll be behind her 100 percent, " she said. "We're so pleased with her. "