UW Women's Basketball Players Save Teammate's Life

UW Women's Basketball Players Save Teammate's Life »Play Video
SEATTLE - Washington sophomore guard Kayla Burt underwent successful surgery to implant a defibrillator six days after her heart stopped and five quick-thinking teammates scrambled to save her life.

It was characterized as "an episode of sudden death" by team physician Dr. Kim Harmon. Had teammates not responded by administering CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the 20-year-old Burt likely would have died.

"They were so courageous," said Teri Burt, the player's mother. "They just did what they needed to do and basically saved my daughter's life. For that, I will be forever grateful."

Burt started 10 games for the Huskies (10-2) but her playing career is over after doctors diagnosed her with Long QT Syndrome, a rare inherited electrical abnormality that causes irregularities in heartbeat rhythm.

She was fitted with a 1 inch-by-1½ inch silver defibrillator in an operation at University of Washington Medical Center on Monday. The device monitors the heartbeat and applies a shock if irregularities are detected.

Doctors predicted Burt would live a normal, healthy life.

"She gave us a high five, both going in and when she came out," said her cardiologist, Dr. Peter Kudenchuk. "I told her not to do the high five on the right side because that's where we put the defibrillator."

Burt's remarkable story was recalled by tearful teammates and her grateful parents at an hourlong news conference Monday.

Burt was at her apartment on New Year's Eve with teammates, some of whom were sleeping over because the team had an 8:30 a.m. practice on New Year's Day. They planned to order pizza and watch movies.

Burt complained of feeling lightheaded, then collapsed and slid off her bed.

Loree Payne, in the room watching television, thought Burt was playing another of her frequent pranks but then noticed she wasn't breathing. Payne called for help and four other players ran upstairs.

Someone called 911. The women slapped Burt's face, called her name, then flipped her onto her back.

"She was purple," Giuliana Mendiola said. "She wasn't getting any oxygen."

Mendiola began pumping Burt's chest, performing CPR, while her sister, Gioconda, began mouth-to-mouth. Payne and Nicole Castro moved furniture to give them more room while Erica Schelley stayed on the phone with an emergency operator and relayed instructions.

"We didn't really know what we were doing," Mendiola said. "We were just doing what we remembered from TV shows."

There was no pulse. Burt wheezed and her body shook, but her teammates kept their heads and continued their efforts for about 2 1/2 more harrowing minutes until paramedics arrived and took over.

"It was really a five- to 10-minute frame, but it seemed like forever," Payne said.

Kudenchuk praised the teammates' efforts, noting, "To go beyond 10 minutes without oxygen, the likelihood of someone living a meaningful life beyond cardiac arrest is not very high."

By coincidence, former Washington basketball player Michelle Perkins, who played in 1994-95, was among responding paramedics. They strapped Burt to a board, shocked her heart and took her to the hospital.

After Burt's condition stabilized, the team voted to travel to Los Angeles for two games last weekend.

They lost 72-46 at UCLA, but came back to beat Southern California 83-81 in overtime on Mendiola's basket with 17 seconds left.

"Just for us to go down there, I was proud," Mendiola said quietly. "It wasn't really about winning or losing, and that's pretty tough for me to say. It's about playing together and playing for each other."

Coach June Daugherty said she plans to continue Burt's scholarship.

For More Information: