In the moments when things were going so wrong for his son, Brian Berger said he and his family are thankful that so many other things went so right Tuesday afternoon on the Utah State campus.
The unflinching and immediate reaction of longtime Utah State assistant athletic trainer Mike Williams and his staff was being credited Wednesday with saving the life of Danny Berger, a junior forward for the men's basketball team and 2008 North Medford High graduate.
The 22-year-old Berger stopped breathing and collapsed during practice Tuesday. He went into full cardiac arrest before being revived by Williams' use of an on-hand automated external defibrillator. After regaining a pulse, Berger was taken to a nearby hospital before being transported by helicopter to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.
While Berger remains in critical condition, he was awake and talking with family and friends Wednesday at the regional trauma center in the Salt Lake City area. Tubes used to help him breathe have been removed and Brian Berger said his youngest son was "sleepy and weak" but breathing on his own without issue. Danny Berger has also been taken off sedation medication and his body temperature has been restored to normal levels after having it lowered to 32 degrees celsius (89.6 fahrenheit) to prevent brain and heart damage.
"They took all the breathing tubes and all that out of him and he actually stood up today," said a clearly relieved Brian Berger on Wednesday night. "He had a classic heart attack, and it wasn't a mild one, but it was a heart attack that was dealt with so quickly by our trainer, who saved his life, that it prevented brain damage."
Berger's older brother John read a prepared family statement, with his sister Lauren also present, during a news conference earlier Wednesday that thanked the efforts of the medical staff at the Intermountain Medical Center, Logan Regional Hospital and the Utah State players and coaching staff. He also specifically thanked Williams.
"He saved my brother's life and I thank God for him," John Berger said in concluding an emotional statement.
A team of heart and trauma specialists have been running tests on Danny Berger in the intensive care unit but doctors still don't know what caused him to collapse on the court. He doesn't have any pre-existing conditions or heart problems that run in the family.
"As a well-conditioned athlete, he goes through a stress test every day," Utah State basketball team doctor Trek Lyons told The AP on Wednesday. "It just reminds us that some things are still unpredictable."
Danny Berger is scheduled to undergo a procedure today where the path to the heart is traced to determine potential issues with its electrical system.
"We have a doctor here (at IMC) who thinks it's an electrical issue because the heart itself is physically intact," said Brian Berger. "They did an ultrasound and everything they can do and they found nothing, there's no thickness of the walls and his arteries are good and the CT scan was positive so there was no brain damage."
Results of today's test will determine the next step but the elder Berger said it was likely that a small defibrillator will be placed in his son's chest in the coming days that will activate when necessary to ensure nothing like this happens again.
"He's going to recover and he'll be fine," said Brian Berger. "He may have a piece of metal in his chest but we're thankful for the technology we have to do this."
It's that kind of technology, as well as trained and present administrators, that Brian Berger hopes can gain attention through his son's ordeal. In a time of budgetary cutbacks, he said he hopes more schools and programs at every level will consider the importance of having defibrillators and on-site trainers at the ready.
Berger was shown a chart Wednesday from one of his son's tests that detailed Danny Berger's heart activity during its breakdown and said he was amazed at the narrow timeframe between when he collapsed and was revived.
"Within 15 seconds of him falling down they were doing CPR and 15 seconds after that they were using the paddles," said Brian Berger. "Everything was done within 30 seconds and that prevented brain damage. This equipment saved his life and the cardiologist said everything (Williams) did was right and when it had to be done. The guy's just a hero, just a hero. We're so blessed to have had him there when he was needed and to have this device."
Berger collapsed into the arms of teammate Kyisean Reed as he moved toward the sideline during a final practice session before the team was to board a bus to Provo to play Brigham Young. That game was officially postponed Wednesday to an undetermined later date. Lyons said Berger was no longer breathing when he hit the court and a request was instantly made by Williams to get the defibrillator while CPR was being administered to Berger.
"He had a calm, clear mind the entire time. He handled it perfectly," Lyons said of Williams, who has been at Utah State for 14 years. "Danny's condition is in large degree to a man keeping his mind under pressure."
Seeing the detailed breakdown and how important such quick and proper reactions can be, Brian Berger couldn't help but think of the number of times his children had gone to open gyms or even their own practices in the Medford area where no trainers or defibrillators were on hand. He said Utah State head coach Stew Morrill told him that the team didn't have an automated external defibrillator 10 years ago and would be talking with school administrators about getting more trainers.
"I don't want to get on a soapbox," Brian Berger said, "but these are times when schools are cutting back on their budgets and putting a limit on full-time trainers or unwilling to spend money on AEDs but you have to do it because what's a life worth? I'm hoping this will have some people rethinking that issue."
Brian Berger had nothing but positive things to say about the outpouring of love and support that Danny and his family have received throughout this ordeal. From officials at Utah State to the Aggies players and coaches and many others they've known for years or possibly not at all, the Bergers have been overwhelmed.
"We've had a flood of people checking in; it's like a full-time job to keep people informed," he said. "There's not been less than 10 people in the room here at any given time of the day, we're just really thankful for everyone's support."
Social media sites have also been lighting up with news and well-wishes toward Danny Berger, with tweets from basketball fans throughout Utah to those from Medford peers like Jason Slowey and E.J. Singler with the hashtag #prayforDanny and #usu. Brian Berger said his family has turned to Facebook to provide the most current updates for his son to gain some reprieve from the constant calls and texts.
Utah State's home game with Western Oregon is expected to go on as scheduled Saturday. Danny Berger's potential return to the court is not being discussed at this time, although individuals with implanted defibrillators have gone on to play competitive basketball. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder has averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in helping the Aggies open with a 4-1 record.
"We're not thinking about that at this point," said Brian Berger. "Our primary concern is his long-term health and his ability to get married and have kids and live into his 90s and beyond. If he's able to play again, that would be great, but we'll take it one step at a time."