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Sun's Plaisance certain she suffered through COVID-19 in December

Theresa Plaisance had just exited the game for good and found herself lying on the floor by the team bench, barely able to move.

"My body was throbbing," Plaisance said of that December night in China. "They were putting ice bags all over me because my body was so hot. They couldn’t cool me off.”

Plaisance had been ill that entire week, sicker than she had ever felt in her entire life with a fever that spiked at 103 degrees for two days. Doctors told her she had an unidentified virus.

Plaisance was playing at that time for the Shaanxi Red Wolves located in Xi’an, nearly 450 miles from Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I had every symptom to a T of COVID," said Plaisance, a Connecticut Sun post. "The way I felt and what my doctors (in America) have been saying, it's almost impossible for me to not have had it based on everything that happened."

Most WNBA players go overseas during the winter because they don’t earn anywhere near the same amount of money that players do in North America’s four major sports. Going overseas allows players to maximize their earning power at a job with a short shelf life.

The 6-foot-5 Plaisance left for China in November, a month after the Sun went the distance before losing to the Washington Mystics in the fifth and decisive game of the WNBA Finals. It was in mid-December that she wasn’t feeling well after a game.

“I woke up the next day not feeling good,” she said. “I wasn’t sick-sick yet, but I just didn’t feel good. By 4 o’clock that day, I had a 103-degree fever.

“I was in the hospital from like 6:30 (p.m.) to midnight, maybe 1. I took four different IVs that night (and) went back to my hotel room. In China, you don’t stay in apartments, you stay in hotel rooms. … In China, you don’t stay the night (at the hospital) unless you’re deemed whatever you have to be deemed. I was in-and-out because I just had a virus, according to them.

“I woke up the next day feeling worse. My body ached. My body never hurt that bad before in my life and I push myself pretty hard. I push my body to its limits, but I’ve never been that sick to where I was feeling like that.”

As a point of reference, Plaisance has endured a torn ACL that caused her to miss all but seven games with the Dallas Wings in 2018. She also had a herniated disc last summer that caused her to miss the final three games of Connecticut's regular season.

“I had a 103-degree fever for two days,” Plaisance said. “Then, when it finally broke, it dropped to 101 and I had that for two more days.”

Plaisance let her family know that she was sick, but she underplayed how she felt so that they wouldn’t worry. She said she also caught pneumonia.

Asked if she was freaking out being so sick — and in a foreign country with a language she doesn’t understand — Plaisance said, “I was so sick that worry wasn’t even a feeling I had. I just wanted to lay down and have everybody leave me alone. … It just hurt to exist.”

Five days after falling ill, Plaisance flew with the team to their next game.

“My team told me that I needed to play, and that was it,” Plaisance said. “They gave me a cup of coffee before the game because I was completely drained. I couldn’t even drink for four or five days (before) that point.

“I was still feeling kind of sick. I had the body aches and the migraine, the shivers, and the cold sweats that go along with it, but my respiratory system was drastically affected. It was so hard for me to breathe during the game. It felt like I was constantly trying to catch my breath.”

Adding to the craziness — Plaisance played the entire game and scored 51 points with 31 rebounds. She told her translator moments after the game ended that she wasn’t feeling well.

“An athletic trainer came over and was looking at me, examining me,” Plaisance said. “Then they laid me on the ground and started putting ice bags all over me because my temperature was really high.

“They said it wasn’t a sickness-type of fever. It was just a high-body temperature from just working my body that hard. … I had lost eight pounds (that week) because I wasn’t eating. I was pretty weak going into the game.

“Like two weeks later, I was playing against against Stefanie Dolson. Me and Stefanie Dolson are good friends, and in the game, I was like ‘I just can’t breathe. I don’t get why I can’t breathe. I was sick a while ago. I don’t know why it’s still lingering.’”

The Chinese Basketball Association went on a break later that month due to the country’s national team. Plaisance returned home to New Orleans and was scheduled to have a 40-day break.

It was during the break when reports came out of China about a virus outbreak. Plaisance wanted to know more about it and began researching it on the Internet.

“I was like, ‘oh, my God — I had this,’” Plaisance said. “My virus now has a name.

“Once I saw that, I went straight to the doctor. There was no test to see if I had it, but from everything I was saying, my symptoms and everything, we had a very, very extreme chance that I had it. … I went to other doctors, and they said the same thing. I tried to get my antibodies tested, but this was in early January, and they didn’t have anything (a test).”

Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage fell ill around the same time Plaisance did while playing in China. She told the Herald Sun in her native Australia that she believes she had coronavirus.

Dolson said that she and her entire family tested positive for COVID-19 via a video shown during ESPN’s broadcast of the WNBA Draft on April 17.

The CBA canceled the rest of its season shortly before Plaisance was scheduled to return to China. Almost all her clothes as well as recovery equipment, such as a Hypervolt, are still in her Chinese hotel room as she expected to be going back and had enough clothing at her home to get by. She said the team will ship it to her.

“It was definitely a once-in-a lifetime type deal, hopefully, getting that sick in a foreign country,” Plaisance said. “It was pretty crazy.”


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