MURRAY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Utah State basketball player Danny Berger is more than just a star on the court. Doctors say he's a walking miracle after suffering a heart attack few could have survived.
He collapsed on during practice Tuesday, but with the help of a quick thinking athletic trainer and an automated external defibrillator Berger is alive today. His condition is improving. He was listed in stable condition Friday at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.
He knows he could have died. His heart was trembling so fast it wasn't pumping blood through his body for about a minute. Only five percent of people survive this kind of heart attack in some parts of the country, according to IMC doctor Jared Bunch.
Berger agreed to talk about the disturbing moments before and after his heart attack. "There's been so many times that God has had his hand..." Berger broke off with emotion.
He describes the cardiac arrest like a head rush when you get up too quickly, but this sensation was even more intense. Jesse Parker his roommate and team manager talks about the scene as it unfolded.
"For our team it was pretty graphic and it's something that all of us will remember forever," he said unwilling to go into the details because they were too uncomfortable for him to talk about.
What would happen during the seconds following Berger's collapse on the court would determine if he would live or die. Panic set in when teammates realized the defibrillator normally on the water jug-- wasn't there. Parker ran 50 yards to retrieve where he last saw the life saving device. About a minute later it was on Berger's chest; shocking his heart into rhythm. This is the key that saved Berger's life, according to Bunch.
"He was back in a normal rhythm in about a minute. I've never seen that. It's really remarkable and shows the important of having these devices," Bunch continued.
Berger was rushed to a Logan Hospital where his body was cooled to 34 degrees to prevent nerve or brain damage. He was later flown to IMC in Murray where he eventually woke.
"Just the thought that I wasn't going to make it. There was a big chance that I wasn't going to make it or I pretty much died it's a crazy thought," said Berger.
Doctor Bunch says Berger was born with a tendency for his heart to go into cardiac arrest. Tests reveal his potassium level was low and this is an important clue into what went wrong because heart muscles need potassium to beat properly.
Doctors implanted a defibrillator into Berger's chest. It will deliver an automatic shock if his heart goes into another cardiac arrest.
Berger says most people who experience a heart attack like Berger's have short term memory loss, but he doesn't show any signs of memory loss. His brain function is totally preserved because of the quick work to get his heart beating again.
Berger is expected to get out of the hospital December 8. He wants to spend time with his family first and then attend the Utah State Basketball game with his teammates.
Doctor's will have to perform several tests in the coming weeks to determine if Berger can continue to play basketball for Utah State.