WNBA’s Sydney Wiese shares her ordeal with coronavirus

For nearly a month, she has dealt with a suspended season, pursued testing kits for the novel coronavirus and become the first WNBA player to test positive for COVID-19.

Finally, Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese has some positive news to share. She took a second test recently, and the results came back negative. Soon, she plans to undergo more tests for antibodies. Should those tests turn out well, she plans to donate her blood plasma to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for research purposes.

“I feel good and I feel healthy,” Wiese told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel like myself.”

Got retested for COVID-19 and my results came back negative 🙌 Thank you to everyone who has prayed and checked in! May we continue to do our part, think of others, and stay at home ❤️ #CallYourGrandparents

Rarely could she really feel like herself for the past month. As the 24-year-old Wiese noted, “it’s been a journey, to say the least.”

Wiese had played overseas this winter in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain for Liga Femenina’s AE Sedis until the season was suspended on March 11 because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. So she returned to Phoenix on March 14 to stay with her parents, Patti and Troy. Before she traveled, Wiese had already asked her mother to schedule an appointment with her primary care physician.

But Wiese could not receive a test because she was asymptomatic. During a checkup on March 16, Wiese was told she was healthy, but that soon changed. The following weekend, Wiese lost her sense of smell and taste, two symptoms common for those who have COVID-19. At that point, Wiese was convinced “there’s a 92 percent chance I have” the coronavirus.

On March 23, another doctor told Wiese she still did not have enough symptoms to warrant receiving a test. The doctor also informed her that even he could not get tested, despite treating patients that potentially had the virus.

“At that point, how can I fight something like that?” Wiese said. “If a doctor can’t get tested, I can’t get tested.”

Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese became the first WNBA player to test positive for COVID-19. (Photo: Molly J. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

Wiese still kept trying, though. Her mother contacted a friend who worked at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, and that facility said it could give her a test. She received one on March 25, a seven-second procedure she described as “one of the most uncomfortable sensations I’ve ever experienced.”

“They take this swab and literally shove it as far as they can down your nose until it hits the back of your throat,” Wiese said. “Then they hold it for five seconds. They churn it out and pull it out of your nose. It feels like it’s hitting a bunch of nerves.”

Two days later, Wiese learned she had tested positive for COVID-19. She wanted to hug her parents and grieve over the news. She could not do that, though, because of social distancing concerns. So instead of stressing about her ordeal, Wiese tried to keep a positive attitude.

Wiese announced the news on her Twitter profile.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I am feeling well- fortunate to only show mild symptoms, but I am capable of spreading it. All of us are united in our fight to stop this spread and keep everyone safe/healthy. I will do my part, and I hope you do too.

Wiese alerted AE Sedis coaches, teammates and staff members, her roommates in Spain and friends that picked her up at the airport. Even before Wiese had shown symptoms, she isolated herself at her parents’ home. She either spent the majority of her time in her bedroom or in the backyard. She constantly wiped down items after touching them, such as the fridge and the television remote. She also cleaned the kitchen counter tops throughout the day.

“I didn’t want anyone to get freaked out. I just wanted to do what I could to not spread it,” Wiese said. “That was my mindset. My mindset was I have it. That’s okay. What do I got to do to make sure no one else gets it from me?”

Wiese has mostly received good news on those questions.

Wiese's parents have said they feel healthy. Wiese said her former roommates and friends that picked her up at the airport have reported the same thing. Wiese revealed a handful of unnamed AE Sedis teammates and staff members told her they developed a fever and also lost their sense of smell and taste. But it remains unclear if that stems from Wiese being in contact with them.

Wiese also has tried to help those who have not come in direct contact with her, tweeting out various suggestions for those who are concerned they have COVID-19, but lack access to testing.

“I felt nervous,” Wiese said about embracing her platform. “I felt like I was going to play a huge basketball game.”

Wiese stressed, “I’m not a scientist.” But she wanted to share her experience so it could help others.

How could she keep that perspective amid stress about her own well-being?

“People are unemployed. People are trying to put food on the table,” Wiese said. “People might not have a place to live. Then you think about the health of people who are in the hospital and healthcare workers on the frontline. My situation is easy compared to a lot of other people’s.”

Those on the Sparks did not seem surprised with Wiese’s attitude.

“Regardless of the situation, she finds a way to consistently be herself and that’s what we love about her,” Sparks coach Derek Fisher said. “We’re glad that she’s doing well and feeling as good as possible. We don’t anticipate it causing any major delay in her preparing for the season. But most importantly, she is doing well.”

How ready Wiese might be partly depends on when the WNBA will start its season. It will hold a virtual draft on Friday, but the league recently announced it will postpone the start of training camp (originally scheduled for April 26) and the regular season (originally scheduled for May 15). Wiese, who averaged 4.8 points and 1.8 assists last season, could use the extra time.

For the past two weeks,Wiese has focused on resting rather than “overextending myself” during virtual workouts at home. She has watched Netflix shows with her mom, enjoyed catching up with her parents and has talked and prayed with friends from her church.

“I’m grateful because I try to look at the big picture in a positive way,” Wiese said. “We operate in busyness. We operate in a fast-pace society. I think it’s been a blessing for all of us to slow down and be forced to stop a little bit and to rest.”

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