Lying in a hospital bed on Sunday, with doctors working feverishly to ascertain what had gone so wrong with her body, DeeDee Shephard was trying to convince her coach to let her play basketball as soon as possible.
The previous night, Shepard was on the court with her Pontotoc Lady Warriors in a game against Aberdeen. She didn’t feel right from the opening tip.
“The first jump shot I shot, I went up and came down, and I was out of breath,” Shephard said. “And then I was going to shoot a layup, and I just fell.”
By the second quarter, coach Kyle Heard could see something was clearly wrong with his star senior. He and Shephard both thought it was an asthma attack, which she’s had a few times before.
Shephard sat on the bench and laid her head back. She doesn’t remember much after that.
Heard quickly realized something was seriously wrong with Shephard. He thought she might be having a seizure. She couldn’t move or talk.
The training staff decided she needed to go to the hospital in Pontotoc. Around midnight, she was transferred to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
“It was an extremely worrisome situation,” Heard said.
Shephard’s paralysis slowly faded over the next few hours as doctors ran numerous tests. She had the symptoms of a seizure and a stroke, but both were ruled out.
“They basically decided that her body got so high-stressed that her body just went into shock,” Heard said.
Shephard said she drank a Red Bull before the game, which she believes contributed to the problem. She recalled having a high heart rate while on the court.
On Sunday, while Heard was visiting her in Memphis, Shephard said she wanted to play Tuesday night against Center Hill. Heard nixed that idea, so she said, “Well, I’m playing Thursday against Columbus no matter what.”
Treated and released
Doctors have cleared Shepard to return to the court as soon as she feels up to it. She got home on Tuesday morning and planned to attend the Center Hill game to cheer on her teammates.
“If the doctors say she can play and her mother says she can play, I’m going to really leave it up to them,” Heard said. “If they think she’s good to go, I’m going to try and let her go. I’m going to limit her as much as I can.”
Shephard said she knows her health is priority No. 1, but that doesn’t make missing a game any easier.
“I’m ready to get back on the court,” she said. “We’ve still got unsettled business to take care of.”
The Lady Warriors are the Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked team. They had a strong 2018-19 season but saw it come to an unexpected end in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Shephard averaged 18.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, but she brings more to the table than what shows up in the box score.
“She’s the energy source for the team, and when DeeDee’s up and she’s excited and she’s playing well, everybody else is going to play well,” Heard said.
Scary as this ordeal was for Shephard, it showed her how much the team and community care for her.
“Just the love that the city of Pontotoc has shown, the outpouring, it’s been unreal, man,” she said. “I’m at a loss for words how well they’ve taken care of me, my family and my mom, making sure my mom’s OK.”