Delle Donne Returns Home for 87ers' Lyme Out'

By Max Rappaport

Elena Delle Donne is on top of the world. Picked second overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, she led the Chicago Sky to their first postseason appearance ever last season and won Rookie of the Year honors.

But her success hasn’t come easily. In 2008 Delle Donne contracted Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread through the bite of one of several types of ticks. Initially, the disease went undiagnosed, and it was not until 2010, when her symptoms reappeared after two years of dormancy, that a litany of tests gave her and her doctors the answers they needed.

“When I first got it in 2008, I had severe migraines, was extremely achy, had muscle aches, and was fatigued – it felt like I had mono,” said Delle Donne. “When I relapsed in 2010, that was the worst. I couldn’t hold my arms up for more than 10 seconds without them dropping, I was probably sleeping 18 hours a day, I wasn’t able to go to class… I was just really, really sick. It even hurt to breathe.

“[After the diagnosis], I was able to find an excellent care-giver, and she’s been able to keep me healthy and help me live my life.”

While proper treatment has helped her keep the disease in check, she still struggles with its effects to this day. Now, Delle Donne hopes to educate others about the risks of Lyme disease and the necessary measures to prevent it.

“It’s not hard to contract, and a lot of cases go unknown because a we don’t have the right diagnosing techniques,” she said. “It’s something that I’m going to work every day to raise awareness of – to get research going and also to help raise money for people trying to get treatment, because it is expensive.”

Monday, she’s returning to her alma mater to team up with the Delaware 87ers as they host Lyme Disease Awareness Night at The Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware. In a joint effort between the 87ers and Delle Donne, all proceeds raised that night will be donated to the Lyme Disease Association’s LymeAid 4 Kids program, a financial resource for the families of children who have been diagnosed with the disease.

“Delaware is among the top ten states in the U.S. with the highest incident rates of Lyme disease,” said Delaware 87ers President Aaron Moszer in a statement. “The partnership with Elena and the Lyme Disease Association’s LymeAid 4 Kids fund helps continue the SEVENS STRONG community initiatives in Delaware and we are honored to work with Elena and the organization to increase awareness of Lyme disease.”

The game will be featured nationally on CBS Sports Network, a channel that reaches more than 99 million households across the country. To highlight Lyme disease awareness, the Sevens will play in special lime green uniforms, which can be bid on during a silent auction that night. All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative game t-shirt.

“It’s just so touching to me,” Delle Donne said of the opportunity to work with the Sevens in her fight to raise Lyme disease awareness. “The 87ers have been so supportive, and them helping me team up with foundations that I’m really passionate about means the world to me.”

Before tip-off, Delle Donne will host a youth basketball clinic for a select group of kids at her high school alma mater, Ursuline Academy.