Jan. 16, 2006
Kayla Burt Press Conference Quotes
Washington Senior Kayla Burt
"Well, my career here at the University of Washington has officially ended. The decision is a mutual agreement between myself, my family, the doctors and the University of Washington. Coming in to my return I knew that if anything happened throughout the course of my career that involved my heart, I would put the shoes the rest. We did not expect what happened on Thursday night to happen but it did and it is no longer safe for me to play competitive Division I basketball. Many thought that the device may have malfunctioned but it indeed fired appropriately and I am grateful for that. I initially did not even know what happened because I did not know what to expect if it were to fire on me. After realizing that I did not get punched in the chest by one of my teammates or a wild fan it was clear that it was the defibrillator. I immediately ran into the tunnel with my trainer Jenn Ratcliff and Dr. Harmon readily followed. My heart rate was at an extremely high rate and I had panicked a little so it was not calming down. The device actually fired a second time and charged for a third one but my heart rate subsided in time.
With all of this, I will no longer continue on the basketball court. I want to make it very clear that I have no regrets about what happened or even my initial decision to return the first time. I am still grateful for the opportunity I had to come back and reached goals that I never though possible. I am doing very well today and feel at peace with the way things went and have gone for the past year and a half that I have been playing with the device. I have been surrounded by the most amazing group of people and have felt nothing but love for the past few days. It is very hard that I have to end here but I am at peace with the fact that I will no longer continue. I have always been prepared for whatever would come my way and although Thursday night was a surprise, I also knew that it was not impossible for something to happen. I want to thank my teammates for their incredible support (all of which are here today), my coaches, my family and my dearest friends. I would ask that the media continue to support me and what I'm going through as they have done in the past. Thank you."
Team Physician Dr. Kim Harmon:
"She had ventricular tachycardia which is when the heart beats very, very fast - so fast that it doesn't have time to fill up with blood. She didn't have any symptoms during that time. Sometimes it's a rhythm that can stop on its own and sometimes it can generate a more dangerous rhythm and that's what she had."
When did you make the decision to retire?
"I think as soon as I got carried away in that ambulance and once I got to the hospital and they told me it had fired appropriately and that I needed it on that night, it as pretty clear to me that I don't ever want that to happen again. I've always said that life is more important than basketball and it is, especially now with what has happened. Like I said, no one expected it to happen but at the same time we knew it wasn't impossible. So the fact that it did happen and the device worked as it should have - it saved me and so it's not worth it to me to force it any more."
Do you feel your case will set a precedent for athletes to play competitive sports with defibrillators?
"It's hard to say because every case is so different. My initial cardiac arrest - as we all know - it was kind of a mystery why it happened. I'm so thankful that the device was implanted since it was necessary. We're not sure why my heart rate went up so fast when for a year and a half it's been okay. So we're still trying to figure those things out. In the meantime, every case is different. I have not regrets about what I've done and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to play one more time. I'm at peace with the fact that it has to end."
Was it a close call as far as making the decision to retire?
"It was immediately known that I would not be returning. As soon as I was in the hospital, got the tests back and realized the device had worked appropriately - it fired like it was supposed to. For me personally that's not something I want to ever happen again. The only way to eliminate that is to not be on the court again playing basketball. So the decision was pretty easy for myself and my family to make."
Dr. Kim Harmon:
"When the first cardiac arrest happened, Kayla was at rest and the thought was it was a one time anomaly - it wasn't going to happen again. The fact that it did happen again - even though all the tests are still normal, we just don't want to put her at any more risk."
UW Head Coach June Daugherty
"First of all, I just want to commend Kayla on an unbelievable career. Her legacy is unbelievable. Everyone knew how talented she was, everybody knows what a great basketball player she is. For her to have the impact that she's had with our program and our university, people across the country - she is an unbelievable leader, a great inspirer, her legacy is unbelievable. I'm just really proud of her and want to congratulate her on that. As for her role with the program, we're going to keep her on scholarship, she's got just a little bit of school left. She'll graduate. And we talked a little bit the other night, her role is not finished in this program."
Dr. Kim Harmon:
Will she always have the defibrillator?
"She's going to keep the defibrillator in her chest the rest of her life. It's a safety net really. But we're hopeful it doesn't go off again and we don't want to put her in any situations that might lead to that happening, starting with competitive exercise. She can still play recreationally, she can still workout."
How did it feel? "To be honest it was really scary for me. Just because, like I said, it wasn't anything I ever expected because I had been playing for a year and a half and had no problems. Yeah, your heart gets going and those were the first few minutes of the game I was in so my heart's racing and I'm breathing hard but it's nothing that I haven't felt before. Then it all of a sudden happened when I was just sitting there and it gives me that shock, I literally felt like either someone threw a ball at me or someone punched me, I had no idea. Then I realized - through process of elimination - I realized I had been shocked. It happened very fast and then I opened my eyes - and said I think my defibrillator just went off and that's when I got up and kind of started crying, I panicked a little bit. I kept saying, where's my mom, where's my mom? And then Dr. Harmon and Jenn, our trainer, were kind of holding me up and calming me down and it fired again. They felt that one. I think Dr. Harmon sprained her wrist a little bit. The shock was pretty intense. It was pretty scary for me. But once the second shock fired I was able to calm down and the medics were on their way. I felt fine after that like I could go back and watch the game but I knew that I had to go the hospital."
Dr. Kim Harmon:
"The first shock stopped the rhythm initially and then it recurred and the second one stopped it, it recurred again but it stopped on its own before the device had charged. The shocks happened right in a row, in a sequence. By the time the ambulance got there her heart beat was regular as yours and mine, it was just a matter of figuring out why the device fired - whether it was a malfunction or if she had an arrhythmia."
How tough is it to leave basketball? "It's definitely hard and it's sad. When I had the arrest the first time, one minute you're playing and the next you're being told you can't play again. We're in the middle of the Pac-10 season and we're having a great year and to realize I'm done again is very hard. At the same time I feel really calm about it and I've been prepared the whole time because it's almost like you go through so much and you gain this perspective and I never lost it all the while I was playing. It's just not worth it to me to put myself at risk.
It's hard. I called a team meeting Saturday night, just a quick come over to someone's house. I wanted to tell the team - I thought some of them thought I might be able to return. And so I wanted to tell everyone that I wasn't going to be able to return. I don't want it to be a big distraction for them. We're having a great year. Some of the girls have been through this before, some of the girls who have been here for five years - Kristen (O'Neill), Nicole (Castro) and Erica (Schelly) - a lot of those girls have been here from day one. I don't want it to be a big distraction for them. I am done and I fully support them. I don't know how - I just try to be myself around them and try not to be down. I'm a pretty optimistic person and I feel like I need to be that way around my teammates especially when we're there every day working hard to win some games and hopefully we'll continue to do that."
How was the last year and a half changed you?
"The last year and a half has changed me tremendously. It wasn't ever important to me to go out there and score 20 points a game, and be the all-star, it was just amazing for me to put my uniform every night. Every single game for me was such a big deal, I just couldn't believe that I was stepping on the court again. That changes you automatically. We all hate to lose but for me, it was such an amazing experience to go out on that floor one more time. I think knowing that - my last game was vs. UCLA, four minutes - and I'm okay with that because I prepared myself that day that this game could be my last, you never know. The last year and a half has changed me so much because it's allowed me to do what I love and be around my amazing teammates. This is my fifth year here and I'm enjoying it.
Off the court, officially I could be graduated and I don't have basketball anymore so it's like, what am I going to do? I'm still taking 12 credits and I plan to finish those credits. I have a lot of free time to hang out with my friends and teammates, we have a good time.
How have you changed personally? Not a lot has changed because I've gained so much perspective from nearly losing my life three years ago. It would be really easy this time around for me to be down. When I found out two days ago that I wouldn't play again, I didn't even cry. I was almost like wow - I couldn't believe it. But at the same time, this is what's supposed to happen and the next step is going to happen and the next chapter, and I'm ready for it no matter what it is. I've always had that perspective and not a lot has changed.
UW Head Coach June Daugherty:
How will the team adjust to Burt's retirement?
"The team is going to take it one day at a time. We have a very talented group of players who I know are more than willing to step up and what better reason to step up than for Kayla Burt. I'm very confident that we'll be able to achieve that with the team and move forward."