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April 6, 2014

Despite being blind, 9 year old takes on all challenges

Haley Baskeyfield has overcome a lot in a short period of time

NORMAN — On Haley Baskeyfield’s first visit to an Oklahoma City Thunder game, the 9-year-old from Noble exchanged high five’s with Kevin Durant.

It took place before the March 24 game when the Thunder took on the Denver Nuggets. Baskeyfield was in the Thunder’s high-five line with several other children as Durant and the rest of the team ran through.

Even though Baskeyfield is blind, she knew who Durant was right away.

“The (game) was not so good except the high-five tunnel,” Baskeyfield said with a growing smile. “It was good because we mostly high-fived the players. I’m going to tell you something really good. I high-fived Kevin Durant. It was great. He has a huge hand.”

The fact that Baskeyfield is around to hand out high fives to super star athletes is against all odds. According to her grandparents, Eddie and Tammy Baskeyfield, she was not supposed to make it to her first birthday.

“When she was born, they told her she wasn’t going to make it through the night,” Eddie said. “She’s been fighting a battle for 10 years. Well, not for 10 years because after the first three years, she beat the battle.”

Baskeyfield’s battle has been far from easy. She has two separate conditions: one that causes blindness and another that causes malformations in her skeletal system. They include a 90-degree turn in her spine, partial vertebrae missing in her spine and ribs missing on one side; an entire portion of her chest cavity has no skeletal protection.

Part of her chest plate is missing. The rest of the ribs are fused and twisted to the right side. On the left side, they are flat and they point downward.

“After she made it through the first night, they said she wouldn’t make it through young infancy,” Tammy said. “When she made it through young infancy, they said she wouldn’t make it past 3 years old, that she would never walk, that she would never sit up due to the curvature in her spine.

“We were told that she would have to have a feeding tube, which she’s never had. According to her last X-rays, she has literally straightened one degree with no medical intervention. She has beaten all of the odds. She has beat every odd possible.”

The fact that Baskeyfield battled through such adversities, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that she’s not interested in hearing about boundaries or things she can’t do. She’s a member of her mainstream school’s Gifted and Talented Program and also will be featured in next year’s Children’s Miracle Network calendar.

Baskeyfield’s success in reading Braille has been well-documented. She’s been the Oklahoma Braille champion for the past two years and made it to nationals twice.

She will find out soon if she’s made it a third year in taking the overall top score for the Oklahoma Braille Competition Freshman level at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. If her family can raise the money, she will travel to California for the national competition.

Baskeyfield also has taken up learning the Cherokee language. On Monday, she will compete in the Oklahoma Native American Youth language fair, where she will speak and read Cherokee.

“She is the only blind child who has ever competed in the competition in its 10-year history,” Eddie said. “She has it down pat. Her instructor calls her a language savant.”

Baskeyfield’s grandparents have made it a point to not let her lack of sight keep her from enjoying the same activities as everyone else, but there are obstacles that showed themselves during Baskeyfield’s trip to experience the Thunder game.

“Her type of blindness creates a hyper-sensitivity to sound,” Tammy said. “And we were in Loud City. Needless to say, she was saying, ‘This is overwhelming. I can’t take it.’ Usually when we take her to a concert or a venue with that much noise, she has these shooting headphones we take and put on her ears.

“I forgot them and they didn’t have any there. They had ear plugs, but she wouldn’t let us put them in her ear.”

Besides giving Durant a high five, Baskeyfield enjoyed spending time with her aunt, April Cook, who’s a member of the Storm Chasers. She even met Mario Nanni, who is the Thunder announcer and had several questions for him as she felt on his face.

“She was really interested in the microphone,” Nanni said. “She wanted to feel how the mic was. She wanted to get the whole thing. She had a lot of questions. She was a very engaging girl, very precocious child.”

Baskeyfield’s parents were teenagers when she was born and were unable to provide the care for her that she needed. Her grandparents have been her guardians basically from birth.

Eddie and Tammy have seen all of her battles and triumphs from the start and are no longer surprised by what Baskeyfield can accomplish.

“She is probably one of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met in my life,” Tammy said. “She never ceases to amaze us. She is an incredible little person. She has overcome everything you can possibly imagine.”

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