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Keyontae Johnson says cardiologist sitting courtside may have saved his life after collapse

Jack Baer
·3-min read

One of the scariest stories in sports last year might have also been one of the most miraculous.

Florida standout Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court last December and ended up needing to be placed in a medically induced coma, reportedly due to acute myocarditis. The condition, a form of heart inflammation that can interfere with the pumping of blood, has been linked to COVID-19, but Johnson's family said the virus wasn't related in the case.

Johnson's collapse was disturbing, but he revealed some new information in an interview with Florida's Chris Harry that sheds the incident in a new light. Apparently, Johnson's situation could have been a whole lot worse, even deadly, had a cardiologist not been sitting courtside during the game:

"I would say I'm blessed to be here, yes. There's just not a lot more to say that that," Johnson said, recalling that day when a cardiologist — like a guardian angel from above — just happened to be sitting courtside in Tallahassee and ran onto the floor to assist. "I was passed out. I could have died. She jumped out on the court and saved me. If it isn't for her, I may not have had a second chance in life. You just can't take life for granted."

Even with the cardiologist's assistance, Johnson remained in critical condition for several days, and didn't return to the team until more than two weeks later. He hasn't played in a game since and won't for the rest of the season.

Johnson told Florida he feels "normal, like nothing really happened" now, and hopes to resume basketball activities in the summer. Doing so will reportedly require plenty of tests — MRIs, EKGs, stress tests — and the possibility remains that his basketball career could be over if doctors deem playing to be too risky.

Johnson had been named the preseason SEC Player of the Year before this season, and was averaging 19.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in the three games before his collapse.

Keyontae Johnson: 'I thought I was dreaming'

Johnson also provided his perspective of playing then waking up in the hospital, and the whole thing sounds surreal:

"I watched the highlights from that game. I shot that one, then the next play we got a stop and I came down and got an alley-oop dunk — and then I collapsed in a timeout. … When I woke up, I thought I was dreaming when I saw my mom in front of me. I remember the [doctor] calling my name. She was asking me questions to see if I'd respond. I was still really drowsy, but I could kind of open my eyes. My mom was standing right beside her. The [doctor] said, 'Who is that talking?' I had a tube in my mouth, but I could say, 'My mom.' Then I saw my mom smiling and crying at the same time. Tears of joy. Smiling and crying. Then I think I went back to sleep.

"The next time I woke up Coach White and Coach Nice were there. They were smiling. Then, later on that day, I FaceTimed with my teammates to let them know I was good. I couldn't talk, but I put a thumbs-up and could see them. They were all smiling and really happy to see me. I was still drowsy, and they were blurry, but I could see them."

Johnson said he watched video of the collapse in the hospital (his first response: "Damn!"), and woke up to over 2,000 messages between texts, voice messages, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He says his voicemail remains full.

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