As Kayla Ard sat down to watch the Utah State men’s basketball team last Friday night, her throat began to close.
It was a familiar feeling — a flashback from seven years earlier when the women’s basketball coach had her first bout with angioedema. It is a condition that creates swelling under the skin, often triggered by an allergic reaction. And this time, as Utah State’s head coach felt her breath tightening, Ard called her mother asking to be rushed to the local hospital.
Upon arrival, she was placed in a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator.
“I went and looked in the mirror and the right side of my throat was swollen shut,” Ard wrote of her experience this week. “I couldn’t believe it was happening again.”
Ard missed Utah State’s game on Sunday against Boise State. The second-year head coach’s absence prompted speculation and concern. Ard wrote a letter explaining her absence and detailing her hospitalization on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Ard tested positive COVID-19 upon her arrival to the hospital, and doctors believe the virus further exacerbated her symptoms of angioedema. It caused her to remain in a coma through Sunday afternoon.
When she was eventually taken off the ventilator, there was a possibility Ard would not be able to breathe on their own. The medical staff at Logan Regional Hospital prepared for a tracheotomy.
Eventually, Ard did breathe without assistance and moved out of a coma by Sunday evening.
“I asked my mom to call our athletic director John Hartwell [before I was put in a coma] to let him know I wouldn’t be at the game the next day,” the second-year head coach said in a prepared statement. “[And] the first thing the doctors told me [when I woke up] was, ‘Your team just won.’”
Ard was released from the hospital on Monday afternoon. She has no symptoms of COVID-19 or angioedema. She is fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.
There is a possibility another episode of angioedema could occur, but doctors have given her medicine to remedy the effects. It is a rare injection, similar to an EpiPen. In 2015, when Ard had her first episode while coaching at Clemson, this medication was not available to her.
The plan moving forward is for Ard to rejoin the team within the next week. She is the middle of a rebuild in Logan, as the team is 8-16. In her first season, Utah State went 4-20. Jauwan Scaife will continue as interim head coach until Ard is able to coach again.
“I feel great,” Ard wrote. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve felt from the community through this situation.”