Teen athlete overcomes rare brain infection

Teen athlete overcomes rare brain infection

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tanque Verde standout athlete, 16-year-old Bailey Bish was just diagnosed with encephalitis.

It's a rare infection of the brain that affects roughly one in 200,000 people in the U.S. every year.

Bish's courageous spirit is helping her fight this infection, one step at a time.  

"Earlier today I tried to pick up a glass of water and I couldn't. It's like telling your arm to move and it doesn't move," Bish said.

As soon as Bish slips off her wrist guard, her hand immediately clenches up into a fist. When she walks her right leg turns inward. But this is a vast improvement from last week, when she was bound to a wheelchair.

In the fall of 2014, Bish had facial surgery for a deviated septum and bone spur. But during surgery she lost a lot of blood and her fever reached an alarming 105.7. Not long after surgery, Bish lost all movement on the right side of her body.

"I was scared. I didn't know what was happening," Bish said.

Through physical therapy she regained muscle mobility and strength and even got back out on the basketball court. But her problems were far from over.

"I'd be running down the court and I'd reach out to catch the ball and my leg would just fall and I'd go down," Bish said.

At any given time, Bish would just collapse. The Bishes went looking for answers from a multitude of doctors, but no one could explain why this was happening. 

"It's gut wrenching to the highest level, to watch your child - who means everything to you , struggling so much," explained Bish's father, John.

"It was heart breaking for me to see her suffer so much but to have so much determination," her mother, Helena said.

Finally at the beginning of February, a neurologist determined Bailey has encephalitis. Doctors believe during her sinus surgery bacteria got into her system. So certain parts of her brain have no blood flow, while other areas have too much.  

While her intensive treatments are underway, Bish hopes her story may inspire others to fight through any adversity.

"If I can help even one person, that'd be amazing," Bish said.

Bish started hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment in mid-February to help her brain tissue heal. She said she is determined to get back to her golf teammates and make the top-five competition team by the end of the season.

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