The Purdue community is holding out hope this holiday for the recovery of Drey Mingo, who is stricken with acute bacterial meningitis.
The junior forward, who was hospitalized Tuesday after the sudden onset of related symptoms, has been upgraded from critical but stable condition to serious but stable. She remains hospitalized locally, with her family from Atlanta now by her side.
Coach Sharon Versyp, whose team was scheduled to play in Cancun, Mexico, before canceling the trip, talked to Mingo in the hospital briefly before coming to Mackey Arena.
"When I saw her last, she said 'Coach V' and smiled," Versyp said. "I wrote something down for her that said, 'Together We Attack. Everyone is here for you.' And she gave a thumbs up and said 'Yes.' ... She knows that everyone's around.
"She's a very strong, tough woman. She's the one who has pretty much proven to our team how strong she is and we're just right there with her and she knows we're right there with her. That's what's going to see her through."
Mingo, who scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds in Purdue's WNIT championship win Sunday afternoon, is being kept largely sedated to allow antibiotics to try to help her fight off the bacteria. Acute bacterial meningitis, which is inflammation of the lining around the central nervous system and spinal cord, is extremely rare. It's characterized by a particularly quick development of symptoms, such as fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting, along with mental status changes, like lethargy, fatigue, confusion, inability to answer questions and not knowing who or where they are.
Team physician Alayne Sundstrom says doctors are treating the suspected bacteria, but they won't know if it's the right one until Thursday evening or Friday morning.
"This is kind of a fluke thing that has happened to Drey," she said.
Mingo's problems began Monday, when she started feeling cold-like symptoms and reported them to Sundstrom. Then, Tuesday, she was admitted to the hospital.
Meanwhile, the Boilers, who were scheduled to play Montana and Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday and Friday in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico, started making their way to Indianapolis for a 7 a.m. Wednesday morning flight.
Instead, however, at about 12:30 a.m., when the full extent of Mingo's illness was realized, Purdue, in what was described as a joint decision between Versyp and athletic director Morgan Burke, decided not to travel.
"We did that together," Burke said. "I got down there after the men's game (Tuesday) night and said that if there's the slightest chance these kids are going to be at issue, they're not going. We were unanimous, we're not going to do that. Basketball, as Sharon said, isn't the end game here.
"We would have been in a foreign country, an hour away from the nearest hospital. It just didn't make sense. ... It wasn't a very hard decision."
Those who've been in closest contact with Mingo - "sharing respiratory secretions," as it was described by Sundstrom - over the last seven days have been treated. That includes her teammates, roommates, the RIP squad (of male practice players), coaches, administrators, and even players at South Dakota State and DePaul, teams Purdue played over the last week.
"Nobody else has any symptoms that are concerning," Sundstrom said. "Nothing is developing quickly, like hers did. ... We haven't heard back with any issues with those other teams."
Sundstrom says treatment with antibiotics, which are intended to fight off the bacteria and decrease swelling of the brain, will last about two weeks. She was asked if she was "optimistic."
"She has already made gains," Sundstrom responded, "and we're very happy about that."
Mingo's Boilermaker teammates arrived back in West Lafayette at noon, meeting with Versyp and team chaplain Marty Dittmar and other administrators for a moment of prayer and thought. They'll have dinner together this evening, then rest at their homes, before gathering for Thanksgiving Thursday.
"We'll all be together," Versyp said. "They're excited to be back with their teammate. That's most important.
"They are in shock and disbelief, but we're so close, and I think that's really helping. The love that's being shown, Drey's mom is very overwhelmed with everyone here at Purdue and how we're handling the entire situation. We'll just keep forging forward."
Purdue athletics has had a similar instance before.
John Reeves, a quarterback-turned-linebacker who played football at Purdue in the mid- to late-90s, also suffered a bout of bacterial meningitis. He recovered to play his senior season, then played a few years in the NFL.
"The one thing that became very clear in John's case is the phenomenal condition that these young people are in is a real asset," Burke said. "It doesn't give you a pass, but it's a real asset. Certainly, Drey was in great physical shape. She ran all night long on Sunday (at the game).
"So our hope is that the blessings and prayers of the community and team and staff, along with her own strong will and her excellent physical condition, gives her the best chance of coming through this, just as John Reeves did."
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