Murray • On Saturday night, Danny Berger will have to settle for watching the Utah State basketball team courtside.
But considering that the 22-year-old’s heart stopped on Tuesday, he knows he’s lucky to even be breathing. And with the news that he’ll go home on Saturday, and that it’s possible he can play basketball again, Berger felt blessed.
"I just thank God first of all," Berger said, in one of the emotional moments of what was a mostly upbeat news conference on Friday night. "Everything had to be perfect and in place to happen like it did."
The biggest testament to the quick and seamless response to Berger’s episode was Berger himself, addressing the media at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. He was pale, and his eyelids were heavy, but he was smiling, walking, joking — and he said he felt as normal as he appeared.
For Berger, however, "normal" is a relative term. Doctors still cannot fully explain what happened to Berger, only that somehow his heart started a chaotic rhythm known as ventricular fibrilation that led to his collapse at basketball practice. Other than a few factors — such as low levels of potassium and electrolytes — it’s not easy to understand exactly why it happened when it did.
The Medford, Ore., native and starter on the Aggies basketball team now has a defibrillator implanted in his heart in case of another incident. His left arm will be in a sling for the next three weeks as the surgery heals, but heart specialist Dr. Jared Bunch said he hasn’t seen a reason why Berger can’t continue to play basketball after a battery of tests.
"We don’t have clear evidence that the basketball in itself triggered the fatal rhythm," Bunch said. "We know he has a tendency to have these rhythms now because he underwent an arrest, but because there’s a missing link back to basketball, by all means we want him to go back and play."
Berger recounted some of his first groggy memories, the earliest of his parents and coach Stew Morrill in his hospital room. He said he "perked up" when he heard his coaches’ distinctive baritone.
Berger’s friends and family have been equally eager to see him progress. His athleticism likely has helped his recovery: Berger has retained most of his memory and faculties, and he said his strength has been coming back. In the word of Bunch, a Logan native and Aggies fan himself, the recovery has been "amazing."
Jesse Parker, a team manager and Berger’s roommate, said every day since the incident has brought a new reason for hope. And with Berger leaving the hospital tomorrow, everyone is hopeful that things are on their way back to normal. Every little step brings that dream closer.
"Lauren [Danny Berger’s sister] called me and said, ‘Danny wants to talk to you,’ " Parker said. "It was 3:30 in the morning. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night just because I was so stoked to talk to him."
Added Parker: "It’s his turn to mow the lawn when we get back."
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