There have been countless nights over the past eight months in which Reese Doyon has entered her mother’s bedroom around 11 p.m. or midnight to tell her she’s feeling dizzy.
“Then, before you can even move, she’s on the floor,” said Amy Doyon, Reese’s mother.
Doyon, 17-year-old sophomore in her first year with the Franklin High girls’ basketball team, suffers from frequent, non-epileptic seizures, as a result of functional neurological disorder — a highly rare condition where the brain doesn’t properly send and receive signals. An estimated four to 12 people per 100,000 develop FND, and the condition is even less common among adolescents.
While her current outlook is bleak, one overwhelming positive is the way her teammates and the community have collectively rallied around her.
‘Reese truly means so much to our team. She’s a bright light for all of us.’
Bridget Leo, Franklin girls' basketball senior captain on sophomore Reese Doyon
Senior captain Bridget Leo noted how much everyone in the program loves and admires Doyon. She and her fellow Panthers consistently marvel at the way Doyon stays so upbeat and positive despite all she endures almost daily.
“Reese truly means so much to our team,” Leo said. “She’s a bright light for all of us.”
Doyon has had hundreds of seizures since she was diagnosed in June. Some last 10 minutes. More commonly, they span 30 minutes to an hour. Many have gone on for three to five hours.
The scariest ones in her eyes are when she’s doing homework around 6 p.m., starts seizing, and doesn’t remember anything when she wakes up around 10 p.m. and has to shower and go to bed.
Doyon has, understandably, struggled with the extreme unpredictability of her situation. She still prefers to keep it private when she can, but out of necessity, she recently launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a seizure-alert service dog. The page has already eclipsed $58,000 in a week, and the plan is to donate the extra money to spread awareness about FND.
“It’s definitely good having everyone’s support, but never in my life did I think I would have to post a GoFundMe asking for money to help me because of how sick I am,” Doyon said.
While many in her position would take a pause from basketball, Doyon has done the opposite. Doyon, a 5-foot-7 guard who grew up in Bellingham and transferred from Bishop Feehan to Franklin this offseason, is involved as a de facto assistant coach.
Franklin coach John Leighton, who first grew to admire Doyon’s unselfishness during the unified basketball season this fall, said she echoes themes the coaches discuss at practice. For instance, when the Panthers weren’t rebounding one game, she encouraged them to be more physical. In a different game, she reminded her teammates how much more fun they have when they’re moving the ball.
“It’s neat to see a kid her age, in her situation, getting out of herself and really focusing on others,” Leighton said. “I don’t know how she does it, to be honest with you. I’m very impressed.”
Doyon is incredibly grateful for the family atmosphere at Franklin, and to her coaches, teammates, and athletic trainer Jen Edmunds for their unwavering support. She’s still hoping to get back on the court soon, but in the meantime, she’s sidelined for the foreseeable future as she continues to miss school. She played in one scrimmage this preseason, but in the third quarter, she started seizing on the sideline and had to exit.
She’s seized at work, at the gym, and in many other public places. The seizures happen exclusively at night, which alters Doyon’s social calendar significantly. On Saturday, they had to wait and see if she could go out for her brother’s birthday because she wasn’t able to walk until 5 p.m.
Sometimes she’s fine shortly after, though in many other instances, she can’t move from her hips down for an extended period of time following a seizure. Other times, she can’t talk for a while afterward, so she has to stay in bed or on the couch instead of going to school. Those symptoms can last up to 24 hours.
When she does go out, Amy typically sits on the couch with a pit in her stomach, checking her phone incessantly as she anxiously waits for a text.
“The scary part is that, a lot of the time, I don’t even know it’s coming,” Reese said. “The other night, I had no idea, and I fell and hit my head on the bathroom counter.”
One of the more frustrating elements of the ordeal is that there are almost no pediatric services for FND. Doyon doesn’t turn 18 until October, so until then, she has to simply endure the highly unpleasant nature of her condition, while trying to get a doctor to take her sooner.
“That’s the hardest part, I suppose,” Amy said. “There’s no light right now at the end of the tunnel.”
She’s been to the emergency room, had multiple EEGs, and has seen neurologists and therapists, yet the issues persist.
Amy describes her daughter as a fighter, and someone who’s “Go, go, go.” The go, go, go might not be quite as prominent as it once was, but the fighting spirit is on display more than ever.
Doyon knows that no matter how disheartening her situation may get, she’s not going through it alone. For that, she’s beyond thankful.
“The team definitely has my back,” Doyon said, “and they know how to show it.”
Those interested in supporting Doyon can do so here.
▪ Quincy (7-1) is also hoping to bring its community together to aid a member of the program. Priscilla Bonica, a captain who graduated in 2021, is currently battling brain cancer.
Quincy High will host two endowment games Saturday as fundraising events for Bonica’s fight. Pembroke and Abington will play at 4 p.m. and the Presidents will host Fontbonne at 6.
Coach Sarah Conlon taught Bonica in class as a freshman and coached her as a senior. She says the alum continues to fight her condition with the same spirit she brought to the court.
“[Bonica] just played with her heart on her sleeve, and even though she’s been battling this, she’s still kept her sense of humor,” Conlon said. “She’s still humble. She still kind of embodies a team player, even though she’s the one having to go through a lot of this, for her family.”
▪ The state basketball championships will again be held at Tsongas Center from March 17-19. The MIAA has approximately 12-14 sites available for state semifinals and will delegate matchups based on geographic convenience.
▪ The MIAA plans to release its first power ratings update for winter sports on Friday.
Games to watch
Friday, No. 10 Cathedral at No. 3 Bishop Feehan, 6:30 p.m. — The Shamrocks (7-0) look to stay perfect in a Catholic Central League showdown with the Panthers (7-2).
Friday, No. 2 Medfield at Dover-Sherborn, 6:30 p.m. — The Warriors (8-0) visit a top-tier Tri-Valley League foe in the Raiders (7-1).
Friday, No. 7 Woburn at No. 14 Winchester, 7 p.m. — The Red & Black put a 9-0 record on the line and host the Middlesex League powerhouse Tanners (7-1).
Tuesday, Attleboro at No. 8 Foxborough, 6:30 p.m. — The Bombardiers (5-1) have won five straight but face their toughest test of the season in a Hockomock League clash against the Warriors (6-1).
Tuesday, Durfee at No. 17 Bridgewater-Raynham, 6:30 p.m. — Another unbeaten gets tested with the Hilltoppers (8-0) traveling to battle the Trojans (5-2).
Correspondent Ethan Fuller contributed to this story.
Trevor Hass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.