NAPLES, Fla. – After Cristie Kerr won in Malaysia, she took McDonald’s over to the hospital room of fellow American Ally McDonald.
“We literally had never spoken out here on the tour,” said McDonald, a relative newbie on the circuit.
The well-wishes poured in during McDonald’s week-long stay in the hospital and continued here in Naples at the CME Group Tour Championship, as the Mississippi State grad tees it up for the first time since withdrawing from the Sime Darby LPGA due to heat exhaustion and severe dehydration.
“I’m just glad to be here,” said McDonald, who is finishing up her first full season on the LPGA.
Now that McDonald has had time to look back on the events leading up to Asia, she can see how a demanding schedule might have left her susceptible to illness. After playing three weeks in a row domestically, McDonald flew to France for the Evian Championship. She was then home for 10 days before flying to New Zealand. Then back to the U.S. for three days before heading to Taiwan and then Malaysia for her first Asian swing.
In steamy Malaysia, McDonald woke up on Thursday morning with a headache and feeling drained. She doesn’t remember much about that day – only two shots out of six holes. Caddie Dan Chapman recalled her looking pale and confused. He had tried to talk her out of playing, she said.
By the time they reached the 16th tee (her seventh hole of the day), McDonald had already experienced several dizzy spells. She called out Chapman’s name on the tee box and he wrapped an arm tightly around her. Chapman said McDonald then leaned forward and her body started to convulse.
He’d never seen someone have a seizure before, but instinctively instructed those nearby to hold her arms and put her on her side.
Chapman said it took at least 25 minutes for the medics to reach them.
“It felt like forever,” he said.
McDonald, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes one year ago, had never experienced a seizure before but had three that day. Her muscles were so sore in the days after that she needed help getting around her hospital room.
Doctors kept her in the hospital for a week, McDonald said, because her CPK levels got so high that her kidneys almost shut down.
“That was probably the scariest part,” she said, “when they came in and told me that.”
Alison Lee’s mother, Sung, went with McDonald to the hospital (Lee was a playing partner that day), and Chapman stayed with McDonald in Malaysia for the duration of her hospital stay, even after McDonald’s mother arrived.
McDonald doesn’t have high expectations for this week. The No. 1 goal, she said, is to stay hydrated. She looks back on the timing of it all and is grateful that she had a strong medical team in Malaysia, and that this didn’t happened somewhere in the middle of the season. Her status for 2018 is secure thanks to five top-20 finishes since a breakout performance at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
“It was a weird, freaky thing,” said McDonald, “and hopefully we never have to experience it again.”