High school girls basketball: Alta hoops star Chloe Ferre finds blessings in a broken dream
SANDY — When Alta High head coach Kristi Jensen first watched Chloe Ferre play basketball as a freshman, she saw a talented player who wasn't working very hard.
"It just seemed like she wasn't pushing herself," Jensen said. "When we'd condition, I'd really get on her."
She even pulled Ferre, now a junior, aside in that first season and urged her to give more on the court.
What Jensen didn't know was that Ferre was in almost constant pain due to a rare disease called mixed connective tissue disease. The coach didn't know Ferre was in severe pain because Chloe wasn't really sure what was the trouble was.
"She got really mad at me because she thought I wasn't trying," Ferre said with a smile. "She was a stickler on working hard, and I was frustrated because I felt like I was going hard. I didn't really understand what was going on."
It wasn't until Ferre's mom asked her why she was moving so slowly that Chloe told her mom she was hurting. They took the teen to Primary Children's Medical Center for myriad tests that revealed the complicated, life-altering disease.
"I thought she was being a lazy teenager," said Aimee Ferre. "And then one day she told me, 'My joints hurt so bad.' She couldn't even walk up the stairs."
A couple of days later, Chloe blacked out at practice after experiencing pain and trouble breathing. Chloe said the pain in her hand was so severe, she knew it wasn't normal.
"We had no idea," said her mom. "She'd been experiencing joint pain for almost nine months, and by October, it was so bad she could barely walk."
Ferre was lucky in the sense that doctors were able to diagnose her disease much more quickly than most who suffer from MCTD, which is often called "overlap disease" because it involves several different diseases, including myositis (inflammation of the muscles), scleroderma and arthritis (joint swelling and pain). It is a disease as difficult to describe as it is to treat.
Doctors put her on medication, but warned her it would take months before they would begin to bring her relief from the symptoms that meant limited time in junior varsity games.
"It wasn't until Spring Fling that she started to feel better," said Jensen. "She really suffered through her whole freshman year."
As a little girl, Chloe dreamed of playing college basketball.
Now she prays for pain-free days.
"That was always my goal, what I worked for," said Chloe. "But I'm not sure I'd be able to make it through it. I'm not sure the coaches would be as understanding as (Alta's). ... I'm not sure I feel like it's worth it."
Jensen is heartbroken for Ferre, but also admires her determination to compete at a high level in high school.
"She works so hard,' said Jensen. "It's unfortunate that it had to be her. Basketball-wise she's so talented. She's been coming to my camps since she was in fifth grade. She's always had the natural ability. She has a great attitude, loves to play, and gets really frustrated when she can't do what she wants. She's a great kid to have on your team. ... She can shoot the lights out, very gifted."
Chloe admits that when the disease is so bad she can't get out of bed, she misses what might've been.
"Sometimes on really bad days those (negative) thoughts come to me," she said. "But then I think, 'At least I can still play now.' It could be much worse."
The disease may have stolen one dream from Ferre, but she says it has also blessed her.