By Jenny Neyman
Teamwork is a key element of basketball, and it’s a lesson the Skyview High School Panthers girls basketball team has learned well. On a trip to Barrow earlier this month, the team took that tenet to a new level — supporting teammates on the court and off, through passes and rebounds, in losses and a win, and through an outbreak of red, itchy welts.
When the Skyview team got to Barrow on Feb. 4 at the start of the Whaler Invitational Basketball Tournament, sophomore Mary Hauptman said she wasn’t feeling well and sat out the first game to lie down in the room the team was camping out in at Barrow High School.
“I started noticing the red bumps appearing everywhere so I was like, ‘Oh, what is this?’ I thought it was maybe from the carpet because I was sleeping on the floor. It started on my shoulders and chest at first, then it started spreading to my face and back and my stomach. I was actually really sick. I was really cold and then I started getting fevers. I was really hot and I’d get really bad headaches, so I was pretty much just trying to sleep,” Hauptman said.
Darren Jones, a Skyview High School teacher and one of the chaperones on the trip, checked on Hauptman after the game. She said she felt worse and complained of a rash, which she initially thought had come from the carpet, since she’d been sleeping on the floor.
“We got looking at it and my wife said, ‘No, that’s chickenpox,’” Jones said.
Barrow High School Principal Jeff Thielbar called in a school nurse to examine Hauptman, but the nurse had never seen chickenpox before, Jones said.
“She left and came back with a whole bunch of research material and had a bag full of rubber gloves and masks, and she wanted her quarantined,” Jones said.
Hauptman was put into an office that had access to a bathroom, and the team was told only one adult could be in the room with her, for fear she could start an outbreak.
“They did an all-call over the intercom and they told all the students that a visiting player had chickenpox and they weren’t allowed in the office, and they had to be washing their hands and follow all this safety protocol,” Jones said. “All the students came up and were looking through the window to see if they could see her.”
Jones said the other teams were good about the situation. The Nome team kept sneaking movies in for Hauptman to watch, he said.
“The girls were pretty sweet. They were all really good to her. The other schools were just wonderful,” he said.
Some of the Barrow students took the situation as an opportunity to make jokes.
“Every time we were walking down the halls in Barrow the kids would say to our kids, ‘Oh, chickenpox. Get away, get away!’” Jones said.
That didn’t play with the Skyview team. During pre-game of their last matchup, the team took to the court with a show of solidarity for their sequestered teammate, who was watching the games from the coaches’ locker room through a window into the gym.
“The girls were pretty funny. They went out at pre-game and they did this little chickenpox cheer and they had put little red dots with marker on all the players. It was pretty funny,” Jones said.
The support of her team made the ordeal much more palatable, Hauptman said.
“My teammates were amazing. I loved having them there. It would have been way worse if they had just ignored me, but they supported me a lot,” she said. “Like, they would come by and wave in the window whenever they saw me, and they were all texting me and made a cheer for me and did the chickenpox dance and decorated themselves with dots. It was pretty cool.”
Some of the adults in Barrow were not nearly as supportive. The school overall and Thielbar, in particular, were hospitable, Jones said, but it was frustrating having to keep Hauptman locked up. Even worse was the response from the medical community.
Once Hauptman started running a fever, the Skyview adults decided they wanted to have her looked at by a doctor, to make sure her condition wasn’t anything more serious than chickenpox.
“We were really starting to worry, so I said to the principal, ‘We really need to take her in and just get it checked,’ because this nurse had never seen it before. We just want to be safe,” Jones said.
Thielbar agreed, called the hospital and explained the situation. The hospital told Thielbar not to bring the student in, Jones said.
“The principal says, ‘Well, we’ve got to get her checked. Can you come here?’ And the doctor says, ‘No, I’m not coming there.’ So he says, ‘Well, OK. I’m going to pull into the parking lot and you can come out and see if it’s chickenpox and make sure she’s OK.’ And the doctor refused. He hung up on him,” Jones said.
Jones and Thielbar drove Hauptman to the hospital anyway. Jones stayed in the car with her while Thielbar went in to fill out paperwork. When he returned, he said the hospital told him they’d send someone out. When no one came, Thielbar went back in.
“He’s been in there for 10 minutes and finally he comes out and says, ‘Well, they said if we don’t leave, they’re calling the police,’” Jones said.
They went back to the school and happened upon a doctor from Nome who was at the tournament with his son. He agreed to check on Hauptman and said she would be fine.
“If it was my daughter and they refused to see her, I would have been livid,” Jones said. “When we found a doctor at the game to take a look at her we were really lucky, because we could not find a medical professional in that town who would see her.”
Hauptman said that, later that night, the itching became intolerable. She wanted to take a bath, but couldn’t since the school didn’t have a tub. Instead, at about 4 a.m. she woke up her coach, who was sleeping in the next office, and he let her into the locker room so she could take a shower.
“Which I found out later makes it worse,” she said. “So I kind of like sped up the process, because when you’re sitting in hot water, it spreads. I sat in the hot water for like 20 minutes, but that just made it itch more later.
“It was driving me crazy. After that we plaid Uno for like two hours. I’m so glad I had my coaches there, they were awesome. And Mr. and Mrs. Jones were amazing. They were like my second parents.
“I knew it was just chickenpox, but it was the thought that I was in Barrow and I wanted to be home and I wanted to take a bath and I couldn’t.”
Jones said they were keeping Hauptman’s parents, Dwight Hauptman and Candice Oly, updated, and they were none too pleased that the hospital wouldn’t see her.
“My mom was really frantic. She just worries about things like that, especially because I was in Barrow and she was just worried they would keep me in Barrow,” Hauptman said. “And my dad was kind of more calm about it. He just said, ‘I’m sorry you’re in this position.’”
The Nome doctor wrote her a prescription, but Jones said they couldn’t find anywhere in Barrow that would fill it on the weekend. Yet another reason for the team to be happy to get home Sunday, where the girls could wash off their spots, and Hauptman could let hers fade in the comfort of home.
The first thing she did when she got home was take an oatmeal bath and go to bed, she said.
“I took a week off from school and now I’m trying to catch up on my homework and classes. I’m getting back to weight training and practices are pretty tiring, but other than that I’m doing good,” she said. “The worst is definitely over. Now there’s just a few little scabs left.”