Florida star basketball player Keyontae Johnson has conducted his first interview after suffering a scary collapse on the court in a Dec. 12 road game against Florida State.
Prior to a Tuesday interview with Chris Harry of FloridaGators.com, all updates regarding his health and status came through his family, via the basketball team’s official Twitter account (though he did send a video on Dec. 18 thanking fans for their support and prayers).
After his collapse, health officials immediately rushed Johnson to Tallahassee (Fla.) Memorial Hospital; there, he was placed in a medically induced coma until he was transferred to UF Health in Gainesville two days later. There, he was able to breathe on his own despite remaining in critical but stable condition.
Johnson on Dec. 22 was reportedly diagnosed with acute myocarditis, or an inflammation of the cardiac muscle. He returned to the team on Dec. 29; though his season is over — his final play was an alley-oop dunk against the Seminoles — doctors have not ruled him out returning to play in the future. Cardiologists on Feb. 3 concluded that the myocarditis was unrelated to a previous COVID-19 diagnosis.
Until he returns to physical basketball activities — “hopefully this summer” — he will remain a part-time coach for the Gators’ team. They haven’t played since Feb. 3, missing three consecutive games because of COVID-19 issues.
Johnson, speaking to FloridaGators.com, reflected on the scary collapse. While recounting the episode, he mentioned how a cardiologist who happened to be sitting on the sidelines ran out on to the floor to assist him.
“I would say I’m blessed to be here, yes. There’s just not a lot more to say (about) that,” Johnson told FloridaGators.com. “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.”
Johnson said he remembers the day prior to the incident and has seen highlights of the game, but doesn’t think much about that day (he saw the video of his collapse while still in the hospital).
That said, he did recount waking up for the first time after collapsing.
“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,” Johnson said. “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.”
Naturally, Johnson said he was afraid and confused after learning what had happened to him. He now goes to the doctor every two weeks and said he will undergo testing MRIs, EKGs, stress tests and more to determine whether he can play again.
Only time will tell whether Johnson, the preseason SEC Player of the Year, can return to the court in a capacity beyond coaching. Until then, he said, he’s going to maintain a positive outlook.
“I’m not going to sit around and think about the worst,” Johnson said. “I’m going to think about the positives — like the chance for me to be back and playing real soon, and how my doctors appointments have been going great. I just want to keep that mindset and keep things going forward.”