Mystics now say Elene Delle Donne, who takes 64 pills a day for chronic Lyme disease, will still be paid if she opts-out of the WNBA season

By Joel Alderman

While most people in the world are worried about coronavirus, Elene Delle Donne (Pronounced Elena Della Don) of the Washington Mystics must also continue to deal with chronic Lyme Disease. The 6-5 two-time MVP of the WNBA made a strong case for her right to a medical exemption and still be paid in the delayed season. Her team has now apparently reversed or clarified an earlier reported stance not to pay her if she should opt-out.

Oh, those pills!

The Mystics star takes 64 pills a day to fight Lyme disease, 25 before breakfast, 20 after, 10 before dinner, and 9 at bedtime.

“Taking 64 pills a day is the only way to keep my the condition under any sort of control. It’s the only way to keep myself healthy enough to play the game that I love — healthy enough to do my job and earn the paycheck that supports my family,” she wrote in an open letter published last week in The Players’ Tribune.

She points out that taking all that medication could make her more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and that she had played her entire career with a high-risk immune system.

However, a panel of physicians for the Women’s National Basketball Association and its Players Association still determined that she could play, inspiring her to write that letter.

Mystics say she WILL be paid

She was in an untenable dilemma because she had waived her right to appeal. A few days after the letter was published word came that the Mystics would indeed still pay her 2020 salary even if she does not play this year.

In addition to Lyme disease, which she has had since 2008, she is rehabilitating from her injury in the 2019 WNBA Finals in which she had incurred three herniated discs. Delle Donne still helped the Mystics win their first championship.

It should be noted that because of the back surgery, the Lyme disease, and all the medication she takes. Dell Donne would not have been able to play anyway when the season starts on July 25th.

She felt the Mystics thought she was faking a disability, that she was trying to get out of work and still collect a paycheck.

But she responded “I don’t have NBA player money. I don’t have the desire to go to war with the league on this. And I can’t appeal.” She had earlier signed a waiver of any right she had to do that.

80 consecutive free throws in high school

Della Donne was born and raised in Wilmington DE, where she played at Ursuline Academy, a private Catholic high school, and was heavily recruited, with her first offer coming when she was in the seventh grade.

At Ursuline, she led the team to four state title and in 2005-2006 set a remarkable high school girls record of making 80 consecutive free throws. At last report, that record still holds.

Only two days at UConn

Delle Donne playing volleyball at Delaware, during her sabbatical from basketball.

After committing to the University of Connecticut she spent only two days in Storrs where she was enrolled in the summer program. But she abruptly left UConn although coach Geno Auriemma said he would hold her scholarship through the summer. However, in August she registered at the University of Delaware, where she played her college career, although her first year it was on the volleyball team. She explained she was burned out playing basketball.

One of the reasons she switched colleges was to be closer to her home, especially her older sister, Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy, autism, is blind and deaf.

In 2007 she said “I look up to Lizzie more than anyone else. She’s an inspiration to me.” (The Hartford Courant).

Despite her success as a pro, things have not been easy for Della Donne. She was unhappy growing up because of the height that caused classmates to ridicule and pick on her. She was very hurt by Lizzie’s condition and did her best to help her adjust. Then came Lyme disease, which she has had for over 12 years and in some cases is life-lasting.

The WNBA in a nutshell

She was drafted into the WNBA by Chicago and played for the Sky from 2013 – 2016, before being traded to Washington, her current team. In her career, she has averaged 14.6 in 190 games, despite missing many due to injuries and her health problems.

But she is a three-time MVP and last February entered into a new contract at double what she had been getting. It’s nowhere comparable to what the men earn in the pros, but women’s basketball is still – well, women’s basketball. Perhaps someday it will reach a higher level of interest and she will benefit from it. That is if she can keep on playing and taking those 64 pills every day.

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