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Utah State men's basketball: Thanking God, Danny Berger says he'll be able to play basketball again

Published: Friday, Dec. 7 2012 11:15 p.m. MST

Utah State University basketball player Danny Berger speaks with the press as he continues recovery at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

MURRAY — Saturday night, Danny Berger plans to return to the arena where his life could have ended just five days ago.

"It's really scary," said the 22-year-old Utah State basketball player who suffered a cardiac arrest that caused him to collapse into the arms of a teammate during practice at Utah State's Spectrum Tuesday afternoon. "I just thank God, first of all. Everything had to be perfect in place to have that happen like it did. There's been so many times in my life that God has had his hand … in what happens in my life. So I’m thankful for him."

Just four days after his heart's rhythm was so rapid and erratic that it threatened to kill him, Berger met with reporters to discuss the miraculous chain of events that will allow him to return to play on the basketball court in as little as three weeks.

"I can't deny the hand of God in the whole situation," he said, choking back emotion. "I know for a fact that he used people to still have me here, so there's a purpose to why I'm here."

The actions that allowed Berger to quickly and completely recover from such a harrowing incident are so rare they surprised even his doctors.

"There are a lot of hands in what we call the chain of survival," said Dr. Jared Bunch of Intermountain Medical Center's Heart Institute. "It's early recognition; it's determining that there is no pulse; it's shocking the heart; and in his case, he was at Logan (Regional Medical) emergency room and they looked to preserve his brain, preserve his neurologic function (by cooling his body).

"Many of these steps were done in a very quick and synchronized fashion, which I haven't seen in many years of treating cardiac arrest. He has complete restoration of his memory, even short-term memory. We often see this is lost after cardiac arrest for a month. He can remember up to the time he fell, and I haven't seen that. It's amazing to me that that's so intact."

Generally, the survival rate for an incident like this in a large city is 5 to 10 percent, Bunch said. In cities that are proactive and prepared with education and AEDs, the survival rate could be as high as 40 to 50 percent — but many of those suffer some neurological damage.

"It's truly amazing," he said. "Every minute survival goes down about 10 percent."

In Berger's case, the AED was placed on his body within 30 seconds of him passing out thanks to his roommate and the team's manager, Jesse Parker.

"He just went on for a second play, and I swear, it was before he even hit the ground, I was already out of my chair and sprinting up the tunnel because … I don't know, for some reason," said Parker.

Bunch said he'd never seen a reaction so quick.

"It's truly, truly remarkable," he said. "And it shows the importance of having these devices in our schools, in our sporting events."

Parker sprinted the 50 to 60 yards to the trainer's office and then sprinted back to where Williams was treating Berger. Parker said Williams usually has the AED on the water jug, but it wasn't there — a fact he noticed earlier that afternoon.

"I'm glad I noticed before practice," he said. "Seconds could have made a huge difference for Danny."

Berger said he had no hint his body would betray him Tuesday.

"That day I felt great," he said. "It just felt like a normal practice."

He was walking onto the court to run a play when he felt dizzy.

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