Written By: JOHN KOSATER
Haley Gordon has pretty much seen it all in her basketball career at Tattnall Square.
After being a part of a GISA state championship team as a sophomore, her junior year ended because of a herniated disc, an injury that led to her having surgery last April as soon as basketball season was over.
This year, the senior guard has been a key part of the Trojans’ success; playing great defense, and being one of the most consistent outside threats on a team that is currently 22-2.
Gordon had a career-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers in a Tuesday night win over Twiggs County.
And while Gordon is working hard to make sure her team does well in the upcoming playoffs, she fights a much more important battle every day of her life. She has cystic fibrosis, a disease that is hereditary and causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in her lungs, digestive tract and other areas of the body. Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults and is a life-threatening disorder.
Gordon’s day starts with the first of two breathing treatments, the other being when she gets home from basketball practice.
“The first one is really the most important, because it opens up my chest and gets me ready for the day,” said Gordon, who jokingly admits that she can manage to put on her makeup in the morning while doing her breathing treatment. “When I do the one at night, I also have my vest machine on that basically puts pressure on my chest and helps me to cough more mucus up.
“Sometimes I don’t even have to use the vest because the cardio I get from basketball helps me so much. I really feel that basketball is one of the main reasons I have been able to remain healthy.”
From a coach’s point of view, Gordon is just a typical basketball player.
“I am not going to say that Haley never complains, because all teenaged girls are going to complain about something,” said Tattnall head basketball coach Todd Whetsel, who has coached Gordon for the past six years. “But she never ever complains about cystic fibrosis. From a coaching standpoint, I may notice her a little bit more when she is coughing, but besides that, she is just like everyone else on the team. She is living as normal a life as most other teenagers, and she just knows that she has to take care of herself.
“From a basketball standpoint, she is very important to us because she can score and she also gives us all she has every single day.”
Gordon started playing basketball in the fourth grade and her father, Stephen, saw something special even then.
“She loved the game so much and she had a talent for it, but she hated to lose,” said Gordon, who along with his wife, Robin, found out before Haley was born that she would have the disease. “She will fight you tooth and nail on a basketball court to try and win, and I think it’s the same way she takes on her illness. She fights cystic fibrosis every morning, every day, and every night.”
Gordon has been granted a Make-A-Wish trip and fittingly, came up with the idea for the trip while watching a “Real Housewives” episode. “The housewives went to Bora Bora and it was so beautiful, I thought I would ask for that,” said Gordon, who was surprised to find that the Make-A- Wish Foundation granted the trip that will take place in June.
“I just wanted to go somewhere that I could get away from reality for awhile and not have to worry about everything for 10 days,” she said. “I know I will still have to spend time with my breathing treatments, but other than that few hours a day, it will be a wonderful vacation. To have my entire family with me will just make it extra special.”
Family is the main reason why Gordon will probably stay home for at least another year while beginning college.
“I thank my parents every day for all the help they have given me,” Gordon said. “I feel very confident that I know what I have to do to stay healthy and my parents have given me a chance to get more independent with my treatments over the last few years.
“But I will admit that it is great having them around when I am having a bad day.”
Gordon also has a special relationship with her sister, Allie, who is also on the basketball team.
“She means so much to me, and she is the one who has pushed me more than anyone else, “Gordon said. This season is even more special because she is here to share our team’s success with me.”
Gordon has simple advice for others who are battling cystic fibrosis.
“You can’t ever give up,” she said. “Sure, you have days when you don’t care, but there are better things to come. If you do what you are supposed to do, it can really be a good life.“