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  • COLLEGE BASKETBALL

    Recovering Berger expects to play again

    With defibrillator implanted, he's to leave hospital today and attend game tonight
  • SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Berger, a Utah State basketball player who nearly died after collapsing during practice Tuesday, said he should be able to play again.
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  • SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Berger, a Utah State basketball player who nearly died after collapsing during practice Tuesday, said he should be able to play again.
    The 2008 North Medford High graduate collapsed during practice in Logan and fell into cardiac arrest. Assistant trainer Mike Williams revived him using a defibrillator.
    Doctors have inserted a tiny defibrillator in his chest in case his heart stops again. Because of that, his left arm must stay in a sling for three weeks. After that, doctors say he should be cleared to play again.
    "If everything goes right, it seems like I'll have a full recovery," the 22-year-old Berger said Friday during a press conference.
    Tests show that playing basketball shouldn't be a problem for Berger, whose heart has two to three extra beats, said Dr. Jared Brunch of the Intermountain Medical Center. When the 6-foot-6 junior, a starting forward, does play again, doctors will be monitoring the heart remotely via the defibrillator.
    "By all means, we want him to go back and play," Brunch said. "He's played at a high level of basketball for over 16 years, so his heart most of the time recovers nicely."
    Berger was to be released from the hospital today and planned to go to Utah State's home game tonight against Western Oregon.
    Berger was upgraded Thursday to "fair" condition and moved out of the intensive care unit at a Salt Lake City area hospital. He had been in critical condition since being flown there by helicopter Tuesday.
    This was the first time Berger has spoken to the media since the collapse.
    "First of all, I want to thank Mike Williams for everything he did," said Berger. "His knowledge and his experience saved my life. I owe a lot to him.
    "I also want to thank the students at Utah State for their thoughts and prayers that went into helping me recover. I can't put into words what it means to have that many people thinking about you and praying for you."
    According to the Logan Journal Herald, Berger remembers practicing Tuesday and then getting a feeling "like when you stand up too quickly, except much more intense." He collapsed into the arms of teammate Kyisean Reed.
    Williams then took over.
    Brunch said it's remarkable that Berger survived — at least more than half of people whose hearts stop die. Every minute, survival possibilities go down by 10 percent, he said. Berger's heart wasn't functioning for 30 seconds, Brunch said.
    Brunch said this case shows the importance of having the automated external defibrillator, known as AEDs, around at gyms and public areas.
    Williams used that device within a minute or two after Berger went into cardiac arrest. That quick action has been credited with saving Berger's life.
    Berger said Williams didn't have the device on top of the water cooler like usual, but team manager Jesse Parker sprinted up a tunnel at the basketball arena and brought it back down to the court quickly. Parker is Berger's roommate.
    "Before he hit even the ground, I was already out of my chair sprinting up the tunnel," Parker said Friday.
    Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill also spoke for the first time Friday, saying his visits with Berger have been emotional.
    "I'm an old bird. I don't know if I'm a tough old bird, but I'm definitely an old bird and things like this are hard. The fact that he's doing so much better has made it bearable. It's emotional," Morrill said.
    Morrill said his own heart ached seeing Berger three straight days at a Salt Lake City-area hospital.
    Morrill said he nearly lost it when Berger was regaining consciousness.
    "He thanked me for coming," Morrill recalled. "That one about got me. Yeah right, like it was a big deal for me to come. He's just an awfully, awfully good kid."
    Said Berger: "I kind of perked up when I heard coach Morrill."
    Berger was born in Fort Collins, Colo., then his family moved to Medford. He set the school single-season records for points and 3-pointers as senior with the Black Tornado.
    He played a year at Chemeketa Community College in Salem before going to Utah State. This season, he's averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as the Aggies have gone 4-1.
    Berger's family has been with him at the hospital since Tuesday. Evidence of his improvement was visible in a photo his sister, Lauren, posted on Facebook Thursday showing Berger flashing a "thumbs-up" sign while surrounded by family members.
    The family members — father Brian, mother Diane, brother John and Lauren — have been wearing No. 12 jerseys at the hospital the entire time.
    "I can't thank my family enough; I love them so much," Danny Berger said. "I don't know what I would do without them."
    Aggies students have organized a campaign to send Berger get-well cards and should be in full force to show their support for the team tonight.
    Morrill said getting back to practice has been "therapeutic" for the team and coaches after they witnessed the incident.
    "The fact that Danny's doing better has made it seem like it's time to go back to the practice floor," Morrill said.
    He said it's been 10 days since the team last played and that it will be interesting to see how players respond in a game considering all that has happened.
    Utah State, meanwhile, continues working with Brigham Young officials to find a suitable date to reschedule the rivalry game that was postponed Wednesday because of what happened to Berger.
    "As I've said, they've been great in this situation," Morrill said. "It's just a dilemma right now with conference play around the corner and both of us having full schedules. Finals week is next week and that was looked at. We're trying to look at all the options, but that's the stage we're in right now. We have not found a date that works yet."
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