Coach to be released soon, expected to recover fully

EVERETT, Wash. -- June Daugherty was saved from cardiac arrest and death through extraordinary fortune on Tuesday. Now she begins life with the defibrillator that doctors installed in her chest on Thursday.

She can ask Kayla Burt for advice.

Daugherty, Washington State's women's basketball coach, and Burt, her former player at Washington, share the same rare condition: cardiomyopathy. Both went into cardiac arrest. Both were seconds from dying. Yet both are alive and in basketball.

"To see Coach and be on this end of things is unbelievable to me," said Burt, now an assistant coach at the University of Portland, Ore.

She dropped everything Tuesday night when she got a call that Daugherty had collapsed. Burt rushed to see her former coach at Providence Everett Medical Center, north of Seattle.

"When these things happen, you can't help but think there's something bigger than us that had a hand in [saving her]," Burt said Thursday at a news conference at the hospital, hours after Daugherty joined Burt as a defibrillator recipient.

Doctors implanted the device in Daugherty's chest just under the skin to monitor her heart beat and restore it, if necessary. They expect her to be released from the hospital within a couple days and to recover fully. They also expect her to resume her duties as the Cougars' coach well before the season begins this fall.

Dr. Mahesh Mulumudi, an interventional cardiologist at The Everett Clinic who performed the defibrillator procedure, said Daugherty's collapse "was a totally random thing" based on her cardiomyopathy condition. It was not related to a stress test she took on Monday or to artery blockage.

"In a couple weeks, she can do pretty much anything she wants," Mulumudi said. "She's doing so well I think she'll be out in a couple days."

And if she's like Burt, she'll get back to her life -- though Burt had to retire from playing in January 2006, after her defibrillator went off during a game.

"You don't hear about these things often. To have it happen to both of us in almost exactly the same manner is unbelievable," said Burt, who collapsed at a New Year's Eve party in 2002, was revived by teammates' CPR and then had the device installed.

Daugherty, 50, collapsed Tuesday at The Everett Clinic, where she had gone to discuss treatment for her cardiomyopathy. She had a physical on April 19, followed by an electrocardiogram in early May. Doctors noticed an abnormality in her heart rate so a stress test was ordered. She took her stress test Monday and was returning to the clinic Tuesday to discuss her results with a cardiologist.

Just as she parked her car, an irregular heartbeat sent her into cardiac arrest. She slumped over the wheel. Her 13-year-old daughter Breanne, who was in the car only because she was sick that day and stayed home from school, ran into the clinic to alert the doctors. They rushed out to the parking lot and used a defibrillator to shock Daugherty's heart back into rhythm. Then they raced her three miles to the hospital.

"It's almost assured that she would not have survived it had she been on the freeway five minutes earlier," said Dr. Michael Rohrenbach, her primary care physician at the clinic. "If she was at home, if she was by herself, if Bre had not been in the car with her ... She was at the right place at the right time."

Said Burt, "I told Mike [Daugherty's husband] that even if he tries to get rid of me, I'm not going away. Their whole family, my teammates, my coach were all there for me."

Washington State hired Daugherty last month after she was fired by Washington despite a winning record over 11 seasons. Daugherty guided Washington to the NCAA Tournament in six of her 11 years at the school. She was dismissed on March 18, one day after the Huskies lost their first-round game in the NCAA Tournament to Iowa State.

Daugherty, who also coached from 1989-96 at Boise State, took over a WSU program that has not had a winning season since 1995-96. Her husband is the associate head coach at WSU, after being his wife's assistant at UW.

Soon, the Daughertys, who live in Mukilteo with their twins, can resume their rebuilding project on the Palouse.

"I think because we've been through it with this one, we feel a little more confident," Mike Daugherty said Thursday, pointing to Burt. "There's always stress in coaching. Over the last three years it's been more than usual. But I think under normal conditions I don't foresee any problems in going forward in her career.

"We're just going to let her recover at her own pace," he said.