October 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Cody Henningsen woke up a week ago and saw his friend lying on the floor of their apartment.

Roommate and Eastern Oregon football teammate Drew Storm had been sick with a cold all week but had slept most of the day, Oct. 18.

Henningsen and another friend and football player, Gabe Oliver, thought Storm had been sleeping off his illness and was getting better. He wasnt.

It scared me a lot, Oliver said. Just seeing him lying on the floor freaked me out a lot.

It scared me pretty bad. I didnt really know what to do, waking up and seeing him like that, Henningsen said.

Storm had meningitis, an inflammation of brain tissues, but Henningsen, Oliver and the rest of the football team would not know that until Friday night. The team left that same morning for a football game near Vancouver, British Columbia, and spent a fretful trip waiting for news via phone.

That morning Henningsen called Oliver, who lives on campus, and had him go get a coach. Oliver returned to their apartment with offensive coordinator Jim Fenwick, who had them call 911 immediately.

Storm was taken to Grande Ronde Hospital and placed in intensive care, where he spent a few days in a near-coma.

The football teams trip from La Grande to British Columbia was anything but relaxing. In Yakima, players and coaches learned Storm was still in a coma and unstable. In Bellingham for a dinner stop, information was sketchy, but they found out Storm had meningitis.

I didnt even know what it was, Oliver said.

The trainers explained it and then we had to worry about it being contagious, Henningsen said.

Meningitis is contagious, but only to people in close contact with the sick person. Oliver, Henningsen and Fenwick are taking antibiotics as a precaution, but none have had the flu-like symptoms or stiff neck accompanying meningitis.

That made Saturdays football game, a 23-8 loss to Simon Fraser, more difficult.

I did try to be cautious with them, football coach Rob Cushman said. I knew that it was bad, but I didnt know exactly what. I didnt want the team to panic.

That game was rough because of not really knowing what was going on with him, Henningsen said. It was hard to get up for a game.

It was kind of a relief when we actually got to go up to the hospital to see him, Oliver said.

Henningsen and Oliver visited Storm, a fellow sophomore, when they returned Sunday. Their teammate was still asleep but moved when they talked to him.

They visited again Wednesday, and Storm was awake and talking.

Everythings like really slow, Oliver said. It takes a while for everything to register in his mind.

That Storm was doing better lifted a weight off the teams spirit.

By Tuesday and Wednesday things have been much more upbeat, Cushman said. Players feel like hes getting better and theyre not at risk.

Storm, a starting tight end, had been looking forward to Saturdays home game against Whitworth. The Clarkston, Wash., native

has friends on the Whitworth team.

Instead, he will stay in the hospital until the middle of next week, when his parents will take him home to Clarkston.

We all know, hes a tough guy and hes going to pull out of it, Henningsen said. We have a lot of confidence in him.