Kayla Burt Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 17, 2004

On why she is coming back: 'I want this to be a celebration, it's a happy time in my life. It is more than just a game, it's being on a court and cheering and experiencing something that not a lot of people get to experience. I'm excited for it. I'm excited on and off the court. I'm one of the first people to ever do this I think, so I want it to be a happy thing that people look at and say, `wow, it's amazing that she's able to do this'.'On the process: 'It's been a very long process and it hasn't been easy. It was back in the winter, about eight months ago, when I went to my parents and said, `I want to try to play again. I want to try to step on the court again.' I was originally diagnosed with Long QT, went and got a second opinion and later found out that that probably wasn't likely. Because of that, because of the testing that I've been through, I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to try to play again. Throughout the entire process, I had mentioned my desire to come back to Coach Daugherty and to Dr. Harmon and they all took my back and said, `we'll help you any way that we can to try to get you back on the court if it's possible'. From day one they've been there. My mom has spent countless hours researching, just trying to better understand what happened to me and the kind of life I can live. One of the reasons for getting a second opinion wasn't just to play basketball, it was more of a life thing. What kind of life can I live with what happened to me? If I have kids, are my kids going to be effected? We always hear to get a second opinion and I'm so glad that I did because it effected the rest of my life.On second opinion: 'For my second opinion I flew back to Minnesota to the Mayo Clinic. I've been there twice. The first time I went was August of last year and then I was just recently there in May this year.'On concern for coming back: 'One of the primary concerns for me playing is damage to the device. We're working with the athletic staff, the trainers and staff to try to get something for me to wear. The doctor back at Mayo, he has had patients playing sports who wear a harness or a pad-type thing and I'm going to probably be doing the same thing. What they're worried about is me taking a bad elbow or something like that, so we're working on some kind of protective thing to wear under my sports bra.'On what kind of testing been through: 'What kind of testing haven't I been through should be the question. I've been through it all. Back at the Mayo they ran me through a series of tests, every type of situational thing that could be wrong with my heart. They look at the structure, they look at everything inside my heart and they can't find anything. I've been through some procedures where I've had to go under. They've looked for everything. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone, it wasn't fun, but it also reassures for me that I am okay and that I am able to play basketball again.'On basketball skills right now: 'I've been playing, obviously not as hard as I play competitively with the Huskies, but I've been playing in open gym. I've been lifting, running, doing everything that any normal athlete here at UW has done and been just fine. I'm not 100%, I'm nowhere near the shape I need to be in, but I'm very confident in my ability to get there.'On concern while playing: 'We play open gym every day and every time I step on the court I'm competitive. I'm not thinking about anything that's wrong with me. I'm also having fun playing with my teammates, trying to get better with my teammates. It doesn't cross my mind that I could be out here risking my life. It doesn't effect me that way. Obviously I think about it during the day, like I said, there's not a day goes by that I don't think about what happened to me, but when I'm playing, it's strictly basketball and I'm having fun.'On if not Long QT, then what wrong: 'They don't know for sure. I've been diagnosed with idiopathic ventricular fibrillation that means I had an arrest and they can't find any reason. They can't find any heart condition or heart ailment that explains why I had it. They say that the in idiopathic, the idio part stands for idiot because they can't figure it out, so I'm a pretty rare case.'On device: 'I'll keep the device in. It has a seven year battery, so probably in seven to 10 years I'll go back in for surgery and they'll replace it.'On long-term effects: 'Long-term, I can live a normal life. I can do anything that everyone else can do. I'm healthy, I can be active, I can go run three miles and be just fine. I can lift weights, I can have kids, I can do anything that anyone of us in this room can do. But I am at a greater risk to have another arrhythmia than any of you guys are, but as far as living a normal life, I will live a normal life.'On risk: 'I am at a greater risk to have an arrhythmia than any of my teammates, but it doesn't scare me from the game. I've been through hard times, I've been through one of the hardest times of my life. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen again, but I'm confident in myself. I'm confident in me playing out on the court. I just want to live my life and I've made a decision. It's been my decision to come out on the court. People say, `you're risking your life, are you scared?' and I was risking my life driving here. I think everyone risks their life everyday and I experienced that firsthand. If I would have known that I was going to have a cardiac arrest, I would have prepared for it. No one knows what's going to happen. I don't feel like I'm risking my life. I've made a decision and I'm confident in my decision. I want to live like a normal person because I feel that way.'On when she started thinking about coming back: 'It was about eight months ago that I became confident about wanting to come back. It was once I realized that the doctors said that I probably don't have Long-QT. It was after that that I was like, `wow, I could probably play again'. I approached my parents, just kind of mentioned it to them, not very serious, not thinking that anything could happen. We just continued to pursue it, my mom continued to research, we continued to ask questions and here I am today announcing that I'm going to be back on the court. It's been awhile, it's been a very long process.'On basketball: 'I don't really consider myself, Kayla Burt the basketball player. I am so much more than a basketball player. I'm making a decision, a happy decision, a celebration to put my uniform on again and not these clothes to go out on the court. Once basketball over, once I'm done playing then I'm going continue to live a life. I want to have a family and do the normal things that everyone does. For the time being, I'm in the middle of my career and I have an opportunity to play another year or two and I'm going to take it.'On playing in WNBA: 'If they picked me up then I would do it, but I'm not leaning on it.'On decisive moment: 'It's hard to watch your teammates play while you sit on the sidelines and feel like you could be out there doing the same thing. You feel healthy, you feel happy, you feel that you could go out there and do that. I got a lot of confidence when the doctors told me that I probably don't have Long QT. It was a lot of confidence in my own abilities, but also by the support of everyone that was surrounding me.'On teammates' response: 'My teammates are amazing. They have been supportive of me from day one. Ever since everything happened 20 months ago they have been there. They know that this is one of the hardest things that I have ever gone through. They've stood by my side, they've been supportive of me trying to come back, they've worked hard with me. They want me out there, I think, just as bad as anyone. They're awesome, they're here to support me now. No matter what anyone goes through on this team, they're going to be there.'WASHINGTON ATHLETIC DIRECTOR TODD TURNER
'The issue was really more legal than anything else. We needed to be sure that her interests were being taken care of and that the University was protected. I must say that the legal officials that worked through this worked very diligently and came up with a very good agreement that allowed Kayla to make her own decision. That's really where the University of Washington came down. Our whole focus on this was to do what was in her best interests. When the medical evaluations gave her the opportunity to return to a normal life, Kayla came to us and said `I want to do this.' Our decisions were made primarily from the standpoint of being respectful of her wishes.'There were a couple of things that were compelling to me since I'm new on the scene and didn't know all the history behind this. I met with Kayla and her mom and her dad. It was clear to me that they had far more knowledge of her physical condition and its lifelong impact than I would ever have. They also were very emphatic that Kayla needed to have the opportunity to make decisions about her own life. We wanted to honor that.'I met with physicians and the physicians felt like there was every opportunity for her to lead a normal life, but that she should be allowed to make the decision about her future.'There's a lot of legal documentation that's been put together. That's been done in cooperation with the Burts. They've been fabulous. Actually, they're the ones that have made this possible.'It is good news, but you don't enter into it without some trepidation. As important as basketball may be to be to any student, what's more important is their life and the quality of the life they're leading. But, after talking with the family and visiting with the doctors and with legal counsel, it was clear to me that, in Kayla's case, she deserved the right to make this decision and that's what she did.'WASHINGTON TEAM PHYSICIAN DR. KIM HARMON
On whether Kayla is putting herself at greater risk: 'Anyone who has had a cardiac arrest is at a greater risk of another cardiac incident. The problem with this situation is that there is no way to determine whether her risk is 1 in 10 or 1 in 10,000. The real thing we need to do is to create a database of people who have had made similar decisions in the past, and what the ramifications of those decisions were, so that five years from now, when presented with a similar case, we as doctors can give a more educated evaluation to athletes of the risks involved. There are other athletes who are competing in situations similar to this, but none that are this high-profile.'On what Kayla's risk of a future cardiac incident may be: 'We know she is at risk, we just don't know how much risk. They've tested the structure of her heart, her electrical systems, and everything comes up healthy. The problem is, if you have a healthy heart, you don't have an arrest.'On the differing diagnoses of Kayla's condition: 'Long QT is a clinical diagnosis. At the time she had her arrest, Long QT was the best evaluation of her condition. Since then, she's undergone extensive genetic testing, all of which came back negative. This made it less likely that she has Long QT. There is not a significant amount of medical disagreement about the facts. The doctors agree about the facts; the disagreement comes when deciding what to do with those facts.'On the doctors' decision to let Kayla return: 'Given the differing medical opinions, we're letting her make the decision on how to proceed. I respect Kayla's right to make that decision. This is about giving her the opportunity to live her life the way she wants to.'On how much potential legal issues weighed on the doctors' decision: 'I do what is best for the patient, not what is the best from a `safe' or `legal' standpoint. Obviously, the safe thing to do would be to say no. It's the brave thing to do to let her make this decision.'On what doctors will do to monitor Kayla's progress: 'We are going to regularly check her heart monitor, and we'll have a backup automatic external defibrilator should the internal device not function.'On whether she ever thought she'd see Kayla on the court again: 'I was concerned that I wasn't going to see her walk again, much less play basketball. She's an amazing person.'KAYLA'S MOTHER TERI BURT
On fears of Kayla's return:'I think like any parent you worry about your kids no matter what they go through in life. When Kayla made the decision and came to us back in January we were a little surprised at first but then we met with Dr. Harmon and we said `What can we do to make this happen?' and we just decided we were going to support her. But we were going to make a decision based upon the knowledge we obtained from the doctor, we weren't going to make anything flippant. If she'd ever been diagnosed with any specific heart or exercise induced condition, I can guarantee that she would not be stepping foot on the basketball court.'On Teri's research:'Initially when Kayla was first diagnosed with what they thought was Long QT at the University of Washington, what we decided to do was contact people who were experts in Long QT. That was what we initially did, we just wanted to learn more in depth about Long QT, learn more about Kayla's future, about having children, what kind of life was she really going to be able to lead. So we started asking people that were leading experts in the field of Long QT. One of those experts we were told was at the Mayo Clinic. When we went back to see experts there they ran Kayla through several days of testing--and merely again it was to confirm what kind of diagnosis she had--and at the end of that period we were very surprised to learn from them that they felt that she probably did not have that.'So when Kayla mentioned going for a second opinion, actually our first visit there was not for a second opinion it was to find out more about what she had been diagnosed with. At that time there were no thoughts about anything else it was just about getting more information. We had already started some genetic testing through the University of Washington, which was done in Milan, Italy from a doctor there who does cardiogenetic studies on Long QT. Right before December the results had come back that they had not been able to find a genetic phenotype. That's not to say five or 10 years down the road they won't find more genetically, but at this point in time they haven't been able to not find anything genetically. The doctors at Mayo said they'd tag team with her and actually start looking for other things besides Long QT genetically. So she had more blood drawn at Mayo and they tag teamed with the doctor in Italy and opened up the testing looking for anything. So that takes about six months from there and then he also recommended at that time that Kayla come back at the end of the genetic studies and have a few more tests to officially rule out two or three other exercise induced arrhythmias. So we agreed to do that and that is why we went back in May to complete those studies that had been recommended.'And then, based on that their conclusion was that they felt that she had ventricular fibrillation, which means she falls with the 5 to 12 percent of those to survive a sudden cardiac event that they don't know why they don't know why it happened.Has she had any events since the first attack: 'Absolutely none. She feels perfectly fine. She has been playing pretty actively--you can't keep her down--since January when she made the decision. In a safe way because Kayla's practical, she's not risky, she doesn't have risky type behaviors--I want to make that very clear. This decision was not made haphazardly or that she'll be risking it all. It was made after lots of research and lots of talking with lots of people. In the end, what we said was `You're 21 years old, you're an adult, we're all faced with adversity in our lives and we're told what the positives are and what the negatives can be of the decisions we make based on the information provided to us. Then we make our decisions about what we're going to do with our lives and she's made that decision. She knows what the positives are and she has also accepted the consequences of them. That decision has been made by our family and Kayla, and the University of Washington is not liable in any of this. This is the responsibility of our family and this has been our family decision.How do you feel about her making this decision at age 21?: 'Again, it was difficult. I can say that we both spent many sleepless nights. We've consulted our pastor and friends and family and I've spoken to a lot of people in the cardiac field. I do know that there is still a lot that they just don't know and that's the bottom line.'There are a lot of different schools of thoughts. There can be a doctor at one end that will say you need to sit in that chair and not move and then there's a doctor on this end that says, `Let her live her life and let her accept what comes along.' You can ask many doctors and get many opinions and the bottom line is you take the information that you gathered. She's had absolutely no adverse affects and again she has made it very clear in our discussions that if she ever had a symptom or if she ever didn't feel right, if she felt funky she said she would walk off that court and that would be it. And I believe her because she has always been a pretty practical kid.'Are you proud of her? 'I'm very proud of her. She's the bravest girl I know.'WASHINGTON TEAMMATE - RS-JUNIOR KRISTEN O'NEILL
On the emotions of the day: 'The last year and a half have been pretty incredible. It's incredible that Kayla's coming back but she is an incredible person and I'm really happy to be able to play with her again.'On concerns about Burt's health: 'It's understandable how people that don't have all the information feel like this could be an irresponsible decision, but for those of us that have been by her side for the last year and a half, we are aware of everything she's been through, and that she has worked with some of the best doctors in the country. Those of us that know Kayla, if anyone can do it, it's her. So I support her 100% and I know that everyone here at the University of Washington, especially her coaches and teammates, do as well. So we're excited to have her back on the court.'On how Burt will help the team: 'Kayla is a baller, she has that kind of unbreakable confidence. When the game's on the line, she wants the ball. I played against her in high school and she's always the one taking the last shot. Who knows what role she's going to fit into here at UW but I know she's going to finish her career extremely strong, and she's going to bring nothing but positive things to the team. She's a great offensive player and has really worked on her defense and more than anything having her out there. She realizes that the game can be taken away from you just like that - it can be that way for any of us - so to go out there and play as hard as you can every time you step on the court is going to bring something to this team that is going to be pretty incredible.'On coming back from injury along with Burt: 'I can't think of a better way to finish my career here at UW. She and I have talked about it, especially when we were both on the sidelines last year. It's tough when the game's taken away from you like that and we both realize that there's way more to life than just basketball, but just being able to finish out our dream and finish our careers together is going to be unforgettable.'WASHINGTON TEAMMATE - RS-JUNIOR NICOLE CASTRO
On how the team feels: 'It is an awesome feeling. We just can't wait for her to be on the court with us again.'On if Burt can perform at her former level: 'She'll be even better - everything that she was and more. Kayla has been a leader on our team for as long as she's been here, and I think the leadership she brings every day is pretty evident to the team. I think it will just keep getting better. It means a lot more than just basketball.'WASHINGTON TEAMMATE - RS-SOPHOMORE ERICA SCHELLY
On what she's feeling: 'Excitement and joy. It just feels right. We've kind of been expecting it for a while now so this is just the day that kind of celebrates it. Now that we know she's coming back we can focus on what we're going to do this season. We're going to have a lot of fun.'On how Burt will help the team: 'Just her presence alone will bring us up. She's a great basketball player and we really need her on this team, not only as a player but as a teammate on and off the court. And she's always been here throughout so now we're just having another element for her to be able to contribute on the court too. We're emotionally high and excited to have her back. She is also obviously a great player and she's going to help us win games.'

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