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Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW Women's Basketball

Burt ends UW career

Special to The Seattle Times

Kayla Burt dropped a bombshell Monday when she announced the end of her competitive career with the Washington women's basketball team.

Then again, for Burt it was better than being on the receiving end of another bombshell like the two she received from her heart defibrillator during Thursday's game against UCLA at Edmundson Pavilion.

"It felt like a bomb exploded inside my body, pretty much," said Burt, who had the device installed after she suffered a cardiac arrest on New Year's Eve 2002. "And not a small bomb — like an M-80 firecracker. I just hope I never feel that again."

Burt has been diagnosed with a heart condition called Long Q-T Syndrome. The defibrillator was implanted after Burt's cardiac arrest, and allowed her to make a celebrated comeback to the court in August 2004 after spending a year and a half away from competition.

But after playing in 44 straight games for the Huskies over the past two seasons, the 5-foot-11 senior guard was jolted twice during Thursday's game.

Initially, it was not clear whether the device malfunctioned, but doctors at UW Medical Center quickly determined the defibrillator fired to shock her heart out of ventricular tachycardia, a condition in which the heart's rhythm speeds up and is unable to fill with blood.

It was the first time Burt had been shocked by the device.

"Coming into my return, I knew if anything happened throughout the course of my career that involved my heart, I would put my shoes to rest," Burt said in a prepared statement Monday during a news conference at the Founder's Club in Edmundson Pavilion.

"We did not expect what happened Thursday to happen. But it did, and it's no longer safe for me to play competitive Division I basketball."

Her loss creates a void in the Huskies' lineup. She is one of three seniors on the team, along with fellow co-captains Kristen O'Neill and Nicole Castro, and was averaging 19 minutes and seven points as one of the first players off the bench.

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Washington (12-4, 5-2 Pac-10) will travel to Oregon this week with 13 active players. Sophomore guard Stephanie Clark will continue to redshirt, a designation that allows her to practice with the team but not to play in games.

"Just having Kayla still around is the main thing," said Castro. "Having her there is the most important thing."

During her first hiatus from competitive play, Burt, a 23-year-old communications major, served as a student assistant coach. Huskies coach June Daugherty said Burt will remain on scholarship.

"She and the other two captains have done a great job bringing these kids as far as they've gotten, and Kayla and the other two have got a little more work to do," Daugherty said.

Burt was composed as she read her statement, then took questions while flanked by Daugherty and UW team physician Kim Harmon.

"It's definitely hard, and it's sad," Burt said. "For this to suddenly happen so quickly and realize I'm done again is very hard. At the same time I feel very calm about it, and feel like I'm prepared."

Despite her trouble-free run, Burt said she knew an incident like Thursday's was always a possibility. And that if it did happen, she would be ready to step away.

Burt had played four minutes against UCLA, scoring three points and collecting an assist. She was on the bench during a timeout when the defibrillator fired. After initially thinking she had been hit, by a ball or a fist, she realized what happened and ran for the tunnel in a panic.

"I kept saying, 'Where's my mom? Where's my mom?' " Burt said. "And then Dr. Harmon and Jenn [Ratcliff], our trainer, came up and were calming me down, and it fired a second time."

Harmon and Ratcliff were holding Burt by either arm, and all three were knocked back by the second shock.

"It packs a punch," said Ratcliff, who felt a charge around her own heart and had a headache afterward. "You know how you see on "ER" or those TV shows, when they say, 'Clear'? That's why."

Harmon said the initial shock had stopped the aberrant heart rhythm, but it returned. The tachycardia returned a third time after the second shock, but stopped on its own before the defibrillator fired again.

Burt is believed to have been the only active Division I athlete competing with an internal defibrillator. She said she is not concerned with setting any precedent, but is glad she had the chance to play again after her initial cardiac arrest appeared to have ended her career.

"The last year and a half changed me tremendously," she said. "It wasn't important for me to go out there and score 20 points every game and be the all-star. It was just amazing for me to put on my uniform every night."

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