By Adam Ewing and Brooke Childers | firstname.lastname@example.org
Baylea Allen is a fighter.
The junior at Bethel High School endured more than most before the age of three.
At 2 1/2 years old, Baylea suffered an an undiagnosed illness a few days after receiving her immunizations. She was in a coma-like state and suffered multiple seizures per day. A few doctors told Baylea’s parents a reaction to the immunization could’ve caused several issues, and she may not ever be the vibrant, healthy child they once knew.
Teams of doctors visited Baylea, trying to help her family plan for the worst. They were able to keep the seizures under control, allowing Baylea a shot at recovery. Through it all, Baylea received several blood transfusions, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
After 25 days of running a 104-plus fever, Baylea woke up smiling.
The road to recovery started near the end of 2006. Baylea left the hospital in a wheelchair and was transferred to a rehabilitation center to combat her ataxia. After a strenuous rehabilitation process that allowed her to walk and speak clearly, Baylea left the wheelchair behind.
“Baylea refused to use a wheelchair. She was determined to walk normally and she continued to fight for a normal life,” Childers said.
Baylea’s battle didn’t stop when the medication ended. She continues to battle ADHD and other behavioral issues.
“She’s learned to combat these issues and fight for everything she ever wanted,” Childers said.
Baylea tried multiple sports and could not find her calling.
In eighth grade, Baylea’s friend Jordan inspired her to try wrestling.
“I was a little apprehensive at first, but she was so excited so we gave it a shot,” Childers said.
Baylea’s life up until that point prepared her to compete in wrestling. With her parents by her side, Baylea kept at it.
“I never thought I would let my daughter wrestle. A few years back it wasn’t that accepted to let your girl wrestle and compete in a ‘man’s’ sport. We didn’t care though. We felt like Baylea found her calling in life. She still struggles into her teenage years dealing with outbursts, anger issues and ADHD.”
Through wrestling, Baylea’s parent’s noticed a change in their daughter. Wrestling allowed Baylea an outlet to take out her frustrations. If she had a bad day at school, she’s able to get it out on the mat, Childers said.
“With the help of coach [Jason] McPhail and her teammates, Baylea found her home and her family in wrestling,” Childers said. “She would come home each day excited for the next day to go to practice. I had never seen her so eager or determined to be involved in anything.”
Third-year Bethel wrestling coach Jason McPhail continues to positively impact Baylea.
“She would tell me that no one would sit with her at lunch because she was ‘different,'” Childers said. “Jason sat with her, when no one else would. That meant the world to us, and slowly people started accepting her.”
One of the most important things coach McPhail did for Baylea, was help her realize she could do whatever she put her mind to.
“Baylea told us on multiple occasions that her coach has always believed in her and has never treated her different than the other kids,” Childers said. He made her work just as hard as the other kids and accepted that she might have emotional days or be frustrated with things. He was very understanding and knew she could go far if she just kept going.”
Aside from changing Baylea on a day-to-day basis, wrestling gave Baylea a fresh outlook and goals to shoot for.
“Baylea felt like she had something to look forward to and even wants to wrestle in college,” Childers said. “It’s literally the only thing she talks about, trying to navigate what she wants to do in life, she said wrestling will always play a part.”
A future in wrestling isn’t out of the equation. In just her fourth year of wrestling, Baylea placed 6th at regionals.
“We are proud of Baylea,” Childers said. “We never told her that she had to be the best, we just told her to give it all she has.”
As girl’s wrestling evolves, coach McPhail continues to notice growth in Baylea as a wrestler.
“Before she started to grasp some of the concepts, she was just beating girls up,” McPhail said.
A kid who the doctors said might have physical and mental handicaps is literally fighting her way through life, every single season, on the mat, in the wrestling room.