Gardiner’s Haley Brann poses inside the school;s gymnasiu. Brann and the Tigers will play York at 11 a.m. in the Class B state title game Saturday at Deering High School in Portland. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Even casual field hockey fans can appreciate the way Haley Brann plays the game. The junior forward is a non-stop ball of energy, retrieving loose balls and stray shots in an effort to feed her teammates.

“She is the spark plug on our team,” said Gardiner coach Sharon Gallant whose Tigers play York for the Class B state championship Saturday. “She’s this little bag of dynamite.”

Fans, certainly those from other schools, were not prepared for events involving Brann during recent games against Cony and Maine Central Institute. In the middle of action against those teams, Brann had a seizure. While fans wondered what was happening, Gardiner coaches, players and trainer Pat Norwood sprung into action. They had seen it before.

“I have seven seniors and everyone has a job to make it run as smoothly as possible,” Gallant said.

“It’s definitely been something that is scary for all of us, especially when everyone experiences it for the first time,” Gardiner senior Madeline Walker said. “Everyone sort of goes into a panic, but we have a really good set of events that we do. Now we have it down to a science. Everyone has roles, like I take the other team into a dugout.”

Brann had her first seizure when she was in the eighth grade, and was originally diagnosed with epilepsy. But the nature of those seizures has changed the past three years and that diagnosis has changed, too. Episodes have gone from multiple in years past to just three this year, one during summer field hockey and two on the field. She also suffered one during softball last spring.

She’d like people to know what’s going on “so it won’t spread any confusion and just clear the air.”

Brann and her family have seen some of the top cardiologists and neurologists in Maine and New England, and diagnoses have changed along with her condition. She has low body temperature and blood pressure for which she takes medication, but nothing to prevent her seizures from happening.

“They said no medicine will help to prevent them,” said Haley’s mother Natalie. “They said she might grow out of it.”

A neurologist also told the Branns that there is no danger playing sports whatsoever — good news for Haley — who thrives on competition. When one doctor suggested she give up team sports, Brann said “you can’t take that from me.”

“She’s very driven,” Natalie Brann said. “She handles is amazingly. She doesn’t allow it to affect her.”

Brann had to clear some legal hurdles to be allowed to play, and she was sidelined for a week during preseason while awaiting a formal letter from her neurologist to the school.

“She was not the same kid,” her mother said. “She would not come out of her room for a week.”

Added Haley: “I’ve never not wanted to play. I’ve always loved the game. I really love how fast the game is. (Coach) Gallant has really had a big impact on how much I love the game.”

Brann’s diagnosis has changed as her seizures have. The current thinking is she has syncope seizures, which are brought on by low blood pressure and physical trauma. In her last three incidents, she has had some sort of head trauma. While playing defense in a softball game she collided with an umpire. During field hockey, she caught a stick to the head and later banged heads with another player. Although the softball team was less informed and prepared for her episode, the field hockey team practices what to do.

“They practice it like a fire drill,” Natalie Brann said.

If episodes last more than three minutes, medication must be administered. Recovery time varies.

“It’s different every time,” Brann said. “My bigger ones when I was hospitalized took about a week. But the last couple ones it was like a couple of days.”

Natalie Brann is on hand for all of Haley’s games, including the preseason, home and away. because as she points out “I’m part of the plan.”

Her job is made easier by the fact she’s the designated Team Mom, a boosters club assignment that comes to every Gardiner sports team. She not only works the snack bar at home games, but provides post-game meals for the team after away games.

Natalie Brann appreciates all the help she’s received from team parents, coaches and fans.

“Our team motto — All In — is very fitting,” she said.

The game itself has already been postponed a week due to bad weather and there’s more rain expected Saturday. The journey, though, has not been lost on Brann or her teammates.

“Me and my family have always talked about going to states,” Haley said. “The whole season (the team has been) been joking around and saying like ‘we’re going to states.’ I think it’s surreal that we’re actually going . . . but I could definitely see us going in the beginning.”

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