Danny Berger will be able to play basketball again.
It may be a few weeks before he can start practicing as he has a small defibrillator in his chest and his left arm is in a sling. But the 6-foot-6 junior, who will be released from the hospital today, should be able to return to a normal routine soon.
The Utah State forward addressed a media gathering at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Friday evening with the doctor who has been caring for him. Dr. Jared Bunch, who is originally from Logan, called himself “a lifelong Aggie fan,” and Berger fielded questions and talked about the future. It was the first time Berger has spoken publicly since he collapsed.
“First of all, I want to thank (Aggie assistant athletic trainer) Mike Williams for everything he did,” said Berger, who plans to attend tonight’s game in Logan. “His knowledge and his experience saved my life. I owe a lot to him.
“I also want to thank the students at Utah State for their thoughts and prayers that went into helping me recover. I can’t put into words what it means to have that many people thinking about you and praying for you.”
Bunch, a heart rhythm specialist with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, said he is amazed at how well Berger has recovered and with no memory loss. That is not common. The doctor credited everyone for doing the right thing every step of the way to ensure Berger would not have any brain issues.
Doctors said they still don’t have a definitive diagnosis. Bunch said Berger was born with a heart that has two to three extra beats.
However, playing basketball shouldn’t be a problem. When Berger does play again, doctors will be monitoring the heart remotely via the defibrillator. Other college basketball players have played with defibrillators in place, Brunch said.
“By all means, we want him to go back and play,” Brunch said. “He's played at a high level of basketball for over 16 years, so his heart most of the time recovers nicely.”
Berger remembers practicing Tuesday and then getting a feeling “like when you stand up too quickly, except much more intense.” The 22-year-old collapsed into the arms of teammate Kyisean Reed. The next thing he recalls is walking up at the hospital.
Williams took over, administering CPR. Student manager Jesse Parker, who is Berger’s roommate, ran 60 yards up the south tunnel to get the defibrillator, which Williams then placed on Berger. The Aggie from Medford, Ore., would then be transported to Logan Regional Hospital and flown to Murray.
When he woke up, he was surrounded by family and soon heard the voice of his coach, Stew Morrill.
“I kind of perked up when I heard coach Morrill,” Berger said.
Which was a touching moment for the veteran coach.
“Danny was just coming out of consciousness and he thanked me for coming,” Morrill said. “That one about got me. Yeah right, like it was a big deal for me to come. He’s just an awfully, awfully good kid.”
Morrill has spent time at the hospital every day since Tuesday and got a little emotional talking about the experience.
“I’m an old bird,” Morrill said. “I don’t know if I’m a tough old bird, but I’m definitely an old bird and things like this are hard. The fact that he’s doing so much better has made it bearable.”
The defibrillator in Berger’s chest will monitor his heart and restart it should it stop again. His arm will remain in a sling for three weeks. After that, Bunch said Berger should be cleared to play again, which will then be up to the USU team physician and Morrill.
“If everything goes right, it seems like I’ll have a full recovery,” Berger said.
Brunch said it's remarkable Berger survived as more than half the people whose hearts stop die. Every minute, survival possibilities go down by 10 percent, the doctor said. Berger's heart wasn't functioning for 30 seconds.
This case shows the importance of having the automated external defibrillator, known as AEDs, around at gyms and public areas, Brunch said.
Throughout the press conference Berger reflected on God. He served an LDS Church mission to Detroit, Mich.
“I can't deny the hand of God in the whole situation,” Berger said. “I know for a fact that he used people to still have me here. There is a purpose why I'm here.”
Bunch marveled at the support Berger has received.
“Danny has an amazing family,” Bunch said. “The fans, his teammates, his coach, it’s a testament to who he is. The people that rallied and his family, that is wonderful to see. It enhances his recovery and how you wake up.”
Berger’s parents, Brian and Diane Berger, his brother, John, and sister, Lauren, have been wearing No. 12 jerseys and at the hospital the entire time.
“I can’t thank my family enough; I love them so much,” Berger said. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”