OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Professional volleyball player Cathey Scotlan complained offhandedly in her diary this spring about suffering a few minor headaches.

Scotlan, 24, was playing in Switzerland for the Geneva Elite team, using her athletic prowess to travel and learn. Then she inexplicably fell ill.

It is believed that Scotlan slipped into unconsciousness in her Geneva apartment sometime on April 9. When the Swiss police broke into her flat 10 days later, she was in a coma.

Today, Scotlan lies almost motionless in an Oakland hospital. She squeezes her eyes tightly shut when she is in pain. At times she follows visitors with her gaze. Clinically, however, Scotlan remains in a coma, and it's unknown whether her actions are an indication of her recovery.

Doctors believe Scotlan contracted viral encephalitis, but they don't know how. When she was found, lesions had invaded her brain.

Apart from her headaches, there was no indication she was sick. After all, the 6-foot-1 middle blocker was a professional athlete in top condition.

''I'm sure, without a doubt, that the fact she was an athlete allows her to be here now,'' said her brother, Robert. ''If she wasn't, and did not have the energy and the level of inner strength, I don't think she would have lasted those 10 days.''

Robert Scotlan spoke in surprisingly frank terms about his little sister's condition, perhaps relying on the hope that she will someday recover.

Viral encephalitis is an inflammatory condition of the brain. It can stem from infections including influenza, chickenpox or measles. It also can be transmitted by a mosquito bite.

Scotlan was making progress in a Swiss hospital when she went into cardiac and respiratory arrest, a severe setback to her recovery. Another problem was her leg, which was damaged when her circulation was cut off as she lay in her apartment.

Robert Scotlan said doctors amputated her leg at the knee two weeks ago.

''Since the operation, the doctors are more optimistic for her neurological recovery. They thought that a lot of the energy that was being used to work on her leg will transfer to her brain,'' he said.

Scotlan started playing volleyball at Holy Names High School in Oakland and continued in the Division I program the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

A banquet program from her senior year at UOP shows Scotlan was much- honored for her talent. She was on the first teams of the NCAA All- Northwest Region and the All-Big West Conference.

She also was a Volleyball Monthly All-America and a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I All-America.

''She was very strong. She was a tall, strongly built woman,'' said her former coach at UOP, John Dunning. ''Until you watched her, you would not guess she was just as quick as a cat. Those qualities, tall, strong and quick, made her an exceptional volleyball player.''

Robert Scotlan said his sister believed she could use her athletic ability to open new doors of opportunity. At the time she became sick, she was becoming fluent in French.

''I think she wanted the experience of playing volleyball and the opportunity to do some traveling, to see the world. She was in a position to be able to do this and get paid for it,'' he said.

Her siblings took out a $58,000 loan to fly their youngest sister home from Switzerland, and they estimated the cost of her care overseas and the flight at $100,000. Scotlan had only limited insurance through the Geneva team.

But many people have rallied to help the family. A charity basketball game raised $10,000. The University of California at Berkeley donated money raised through ticket sales for a volleyball match. UOP plans several fund-raisers.

In the meantime, Robert Scotlan and his four other sisters remain hopeful.

''It's still a long road for Cathey. It's a very long road,'' he said. ''She seems to have quite a bit of energy left to endure all these little things. Last week she had a temperature, and she fought that.

''But at this point, we can't see two months down the road because we haven't even been able to see tomorrow. We're going to work on today first, and then we'll work on tomorrow.''

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