Heartfelt message at WSHS, from athlete/survivor Kayla Burt

If it’s doing its job, your heart is out of sight and (mostly) out of mind – but that can change in an instant, as West Seattle resident Kayla Burt learned almost a decade ago. She was a UW basketball starter, hanging out with friends, when sudden cardiac arrest almost ended her life way too soon. As amply covered at the time and afterward, she survived – in no small part thanks to her friends, whose actions included calling 911, performing CPR, and making way for emergency personnel to get to Kayla. She visited West Seattle High School health classes this past week with a message that could save others’ lives – about heart-health awareness, about learning CPR, and more. Her host was health teacher Sarah Orton:

Kayla’s post-college achievements have included working as a coach at the University of Portland, serving as an EMT and a hospital staffer, and, now, as outreach coordinator for the Bellevue-based Hope Heart Institute, which her online bio explains she joined “after realizing her passion for heart disease awareness and prevention of cardiac arrest, especially in athletes, overcame her desire to do anything else.” Kayla, by the way, says that while experts never figured out why she went into cardiac arrest, she now lives “a completely normal life that involves daily exercise, basketball, biking, running, and anything else I set my mind to do!”

(SIDE NOTE: It’s not affiliated with Hope, but if you are interested in learning CPR – which we’ve evangelized here before, because of incidents like this one – here’s one of the places to check with.)

4 Replies to "Heartfelt message at WSHS, from athlete/survivor Kayla Burt"

  • Just a fan out here May 27, 2012 (10:34 pm)

    Awwwwwww, this story was so special… and wow, has it been ten years already???

    Of course it was sad that she couldn’t keep playing back then, but it still shared a very important lesson about what matters more than anything else.

    She looks so sweet, and the same

    Good for her!

  • Hayseed May 28, 2012 (9:14 am)

    My understanding is that Burt was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a cardiac arrhythmia that originates from any one of several genetic mutations in the heart muscle. At least that’s what the extensive press coverage said was the source of her two cardiac arrests.

    The Wikipedia entry on Long QT says that it can be difficult to diagnose, so perhaps that’s why this news article says “experts never figured out why she went into cardiac arrest.”

    • WSB May 28, 2012 (9:35 am)

      Hayseed, that was taken from the biographical information provided in the announcement we received of her impending visit (the invitation for us to cover it), a relatively short first-person summary I opted not to use in its entirety, but after an introductory bit of information, it went as follows:
      “It was New Year’s Eve and I had 8 teammates at my house just watching movies, eating junk food, and apparently looking through my high school yearbooks. I have no recollection of what takes place next, but I have amazing friends (I call them my sisters) who took over a situation that transcends my comprehension.

      At 11:23pm I started feeling light headed and then collapsed on the floor. My teammates thought I was joking at first, but when I didn’t move, they turned me over and found that my eyes were rolled in the back of my head and I was completely purple. They said I was simply “lifeless”. Everyone played a part. One was on the phone with 911, one going door to door for help; another was moving furniture for EMS personnel, and two more performing CPR.

      Paramedics were able to shock me out of ventricular fibrillation and into a normal sinus rhythm where I lay in a coma for 15 hours at UW Medical Center. Six days later I had an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) placed in my chest to shock my heart back to a normal rhythm should another arrhythmia ever occur again. I had to hang up the basketball shoes in that moment but I also realized how fortunate and blessed I was that I was even alive.

      To this day, experts are unsure of why I went into cardiac arrest that night and they may never know. Today, I live a completely normal life that involves daily exercise, basketball, biking, running, and anything else I set my mind to do! It has become my passion and I believe it’s what I was placed here to do, to now do what I can to raise awareness to those young athletes who may have prevented to them what happened to me. ”

  • Annushka May 28, 2012 (4:21 pm)

    I admire this woman, but would suggest anyone wanting to donate to HHI check out charity navigator first.

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