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When Danny Berger’s body was failing him Tuesday afternoon during a Utah State basketball practice, he had one blessing.
USU athletic trainer Mike Williams was courtside.
Utah State basketball player Danny Berger recovering from collapse
» Berger has been responsive to doctors and his family, even speaking to them
» Doctors still don’t know what caused Berger to collapse
» School officials credited athletic trainer Mike Williams for saving Berger’s life
In the span of two minutes, Berger went from collapsing into Kyisean Reed’s arms to having his heart jolted back to life on the court at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. A day later, as the 22-year-old athlete shows encouraging signs of recovery at a Murray hospital, his family and university officials have said much of that progress can be attributed to Williams, whose methodical, cool-headed response prevented much more grave consequences.
"He saved my brother’s life," said John Berger, Danny’s older brother, during a Wednesday press conference at Intermountain Medical Center. "And I thank God for him."
Utah State team physician Trek Lyons offered encouraging updates on the health of the Aggies’ starting junior forward. Berger has been awake, recognizing and even talking to his family and following his doctors’ instructions.
Lyons credited that status to Williams, a 14-year staffer at the university who employed textbook procedures in the crisis.
After Berger collapsed, Williams sent someone to get the nearest automated external defibrillator, then began to perform CPR. When he got the AED, Williams determined Berger was in cardiac arrest. With two shocks, he restarted Berger’s heart.
If the staff hadn’t been as efficient, Berger may not have made it to Logan Regional Hospital, much less survived his flight to IMC in Murray.
"If you want a person to be taking care of you, I’ll pick someone like Mike," Lyons said. "The position Danny is in right now to a large degree is thanks to a man keeping his mind in an intense situation."
The sentiment was echoed by IMC spokesman Jess Gomez, who said without the Utah State staff, "[Berger] would not be here today."
Lyons described Williams as a exacting, detail-oriented responder. He added that the Aggies trainer had followed protocol to the letter — including calling his supervisor after an ambulance arrived, and going back for Berger’s medical history to bring to the hospital. Williams had tested all of the program’s defibrillators over the summer to make sure the batteries were still working. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
But school officials acknowledged that, despite the optimism about Berger’s condition, there was still a strong sense of shock rippling through the university. From the teammates and coaches who witnessed it, to the fans who watched Berger play for the 4-1 Aggies, there were a lot of questions as to how a young athlete’s heart could suddenly stop during a routine practice.
Doctors have not worked that out yet, according to team doctor Lyons, who said Berger is undergoing tests looking at every factor from the structure of his heart to his genetics. There is no timetable for a diagnosis.
Berger was visited by family and his teammates and coaches on Wednesday. USU athletic director Scott Barnes said coach Stew Morrill and his staff had no other priority than to be by Berger through the ordeal. Wednesday’s scheduled game at Brigham Young was postponed. A new date has not yet been announced.
"Of course, with the team, it’s very traumatic for them," Barnes said. " It was hard to understand what was happening … there’s shock and questioning how Danny is going to be."
Students, fans and even other universities had reached out in the last day to send well wishes, according to Barnes. He said many had sent notes or messages to the family, and social media was inundated with prayers and hopeful sentiments for Berger.
John Berger acknowledged the support, saying, "I know you have made a difference in keeping my brother alive."
Barnes said he didn’t expect any other Utah State basketball games to be postponed or otherwise affected.
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