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One week before Drey Mingo was hospitalized with acute bacterial meningitis, she had an exam in anatomy.

On meningitis.

And the damage it can cause to the inner ear.

"I was in the hospital and the doctors are trying to explain to me and I was telling them what they were telling me," she said on Saturday after making a surprise appearance during Purdue's victory over Auburn. "It's weird."

Mingo's biggest challenge now is learning to live with a hearing impairment.

Her right ear is better than her left, which suffered more damage as a result of the meningitis.

But she's able to hear well enough to have a conversation when standing within in a couple feet. The post-game interview was conducted in a tunnel in Conseco Fieldhouse with three reporters, and Mingo never had to ask us to repeat questions. She may have leaned closer, with her right ear leading the way, but she was as receptive and engaging as ever.

She said doctors have called it an "act of God" that she can hear as well as she can, "considering how severe everything was," she said.

"I'm keeping my faith," she said. "Hopefully, I get it completely back. Who knows?"

Communicating on the court -- with the noise and the bodies moving quickly -- could be more of a challenge than having daily conversations.

"We talked about how we need to focus on (that) we all need to be better communicators," coach Sharon Versyp said. "Now we have to be even more so."

  • Mingo isn't sure how long it will take to get her conditioning back. Before playing two minutes against Auburn, she hadn't played in a game since Nov. 21. She'll slowly be worked into more rotations in practice.

    "I feel like if I had to sprint for 30 minutes, I'd probably keel over," she said. "But for what I've had to do, I've done pretty well. So I'm excited.

    "Hopefully, the shape that I was in (prior to the illness) will help me out a little bit. I don't think it will take that long for me to get back in shape. I don't know about 34 minutes (per game) like I was doing before kind-of-shape, but hopefully. Who knows?"

  • Versyp said Mingo, who averaged just more than 17 points and 7 rebounds before the illness, won't simply get her starting spot back. She'll have to earn it.

    "We've built a team not thinking she'd ever come back," Versyp said. "Every day will be a challenge for her with the conditioning part."