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Originally published June 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 19, 2007 at 11:03 AM

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Daugherty grateful for 2nd chance

June Daugherty sits in a chair outside her home, sun shining, water glimmering a short distance down the hill. Her husband, Mike, is inside...

Seattle Times staff reporter

MUKILTEO — June Daugherty sits in a chair outside her home, sun shining, water glimmering a short distance down the hill. Her husband, Mike, is inside making hotel reservations for an upcoming recruiting trip. Her 13-year-old daughter, Breanne, needs a ride to soccer practice. Her son, Doc, also 13, pounds away on his drums downstairs.

This feels abnormal, the classic suburban normality of a routine afternoon.

The last three months feel too surreal to be real. Like June Daugherty is watching a movie about her own life, starring someone else — the firing at Washington after 11 seasons, the hiring at rival Washington State, the cardiac arrest and the critical condition and the defibrillator now implanted on the left side of her chest.

It's too soon to make sense of all that happened. But Daugherty knows this: "It could have gone the other way so easily. I'm lucky I'm alive."

On May 22, Daugherty went to the Everett Clinic for the second part of a routine test. Doctors put dye in her body, told her to go to lunch and come back later. That's the last thing she remembers. That's where the good fortune starts.

Her daughter stayed home sick that day and accompanied Daugherty to the clinic. Breanne wasn't hungry. She requested Jell-O from the store. Because they didn't stop at a restaurant, they arrived back at the clinic early, which is when Daugherty collapsed in the front seat of her Jeep and Breanne ran inside for help.

"I was freaking out," Breanne said. "It was scary."

Daugherty doesn't remember anything about the first five days she spent in the hospital, as doctors upgraded her condition from critical to serious. She remembers bits and pieces of the last two days she spent there. The daughter who walked shyly into the room, witnessed her mom with tubes running around her body and whispered, "Hi."

"Hey," Daugherty said back, "I heard you saved my life."

The support still feels overwhelming. Daugherty points to a shoebox overflowing with cards.

Mike, who doubles as June's assistant coach, had to ask friends to stop sending flowers. They filled her room. They filled her house.

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Daugherty suffered from short-term memory loss initially. When she talked to her family she often repeated the same questions.

Former player Kayla Burt stayed most of the week around the hospital. Burt could relate — she suffered cardiac arrest while playing for Daugherty. She also has a defibrillator.

Daugherty has another defibrillator in her living room. It's silver, about the size of a plum, and heavy enough that she can feel the weight in her chest.

If her heart beats too slow, the defibrillator will speed it up. If it beats too fast, it will slow it down. If she feels discomfort, she can use a machine she holds over the defibrillator that sends the reading through a phone line to her doctors. They can tell her why it feels the way it does, at what time, from anywhere in the world.

Burt laughs, telling her coach that Daugherty has the Cadillac of defibrillators, while Burt has just a Honda. The parallels were difficult at first.

"It was like the whole thing happening all over again," Mike says. "In both cases, sitting there, watching somebody that you love with a tube in their throat and being kept alive by artificial means. It just strikes you. You start thinking about how much those people mean to you."

Daugherty never worried that she wouldn't coach again. She lives an active lifestyle. That's a big reason she's alive, a heart so strong in every area except the one that failed. She expects to move to Pullman in the coming months and begin the next chapter of her coaching career.

First, though, she needs to regain her strength. She can't lift her left arm all the way because of the defibrillator. She's still sore from the CPR.

"I'm not complaining," Daugherty said. "Believe me. Every day, I feel stronger. Every day, I'm feeling better. I'm just so appreciative of getting a second chance."

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

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