A day after attending her first Kentucky basketball home game, teenager Alyssa Thompson suddenly realized she couldn't move her legs. Since then she's been in the Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital.
With UK playing at Vanderbilt on Saturday, she and her family hope Coach John Calipari or a player — ideally Jarrod Polson — can visit.
"That would be motivation to get better," she said. "That would make my journey easier."
Thompson, 16, has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a chronic disease that affects the nervous system. She spent three weeks at the Cleveland Clinic last summer getting treatment.
"It basically feels like the affected limb is on fire and is wrapped in barbed wire," she said of the pain she experiences.
Thompson's parents, Angela and Greg, attended UK. Angela got a degree in nursing, Greg in electrical engineering. It was not unusual for them to go on dates that included UK home games.
"We raised four kids to love Kentucky basketball," Angela said.
The family, which lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn., attended the Kentucky-Belmont game on Dec. 21 as part of a Christmas present for Alyssa.
"I cried," Alyssa said of her first time experiencing Rupp Arena. "I loved it. It was so amazing. I want to go to every game. It was so cool."
Alyssa described herself as a "normal teenager." She likes to hang out with her friends, go to church and paint.
"I just try to be as normal as I can be," she said. "Just a normal life."
Alyssa has undergone three surgeries on her left foot and one on her left hand, her mother said.
"I'm learning how to walk again," Alyssa said of this latest setback. "I'm learning how to move again. It's positive, but it just takes time."
She noted her faith as a motivating factor.
"Just knowing this is for a purpose," she said. "Knowing I'm not suffering for nothing. I know this is going to be used for good."
When asked why Polson is her favorite UK player, Alyssa said, "Well, he's really cute, first of all. Because I'm a teenage girl.
"I think he's so cool, a man of faith. He has good class and good character."
Polson's dimples, cited by a magazine in listing him among the more attractive players in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, are a powerful asset.
"They are, they are," Alyssa said. "They have a big impact. They really do."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.