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The Muamba Miracle
It was a moment that shook the English football, and the wider sporting world. How was it possible that a fit 23-year-old athlete could collapse with a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match?
Eight years ago today, 43 minutes into an FA Cup clash between Tottenham and Bolton at White Hart Lane, opposition midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed, with nobody around him. His counterpart Rafael Van Der Vaart was the first to notice, and hurriedly waved the medical team on from the touchline.
The ESPN television coverage showed Muamba face down on the turf, apparently resisting as the physio tried to roll him over, and it didn’t take long for the players, coaching staff and supporters inside White Hart Lane to realise that this was something outside the ordinary. As the travelling fans chanted Muamba’s name, others were pictured biting their nails, and Bolton boss Owen Coyle looked visibly shaken in his technical area, before he ran onto the pitch to his stricken player. As the seconds ticked by, the cameras showed van der Vaart with his head in his hands, Muamba’s team-mate Nigel Reo Coker on his haunches seemingly in prayer, and fans of both sides in tears - a scene sensitively depicted in commentary by Jon Champion.
Minutes passed in shocked silence, punctuated by the occasional chant of Muamba’s name from both sets of fans, before the stadium erupted in applause as the stretcher bearers removed him from the playing area, a scene tempered by Champion pointing out that efforts to resuscitate him were ongoing. The presence in the crowd that day of Spurs fan Dr Andrew Deaner, consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital, was a stroke of luck that possibly saved Fabrice Muamba’s life - not only in terms of the help he could administer on the pitch, but also in guiding the ambulance to take the patient to his specialist hospital in Bethnal Green, rather than the nearer North Middlesex Hospital.
After the stretcher left the arena, and following a brief consultation with Coyle and Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, referee Howard Webb blew his whistle and led the players off the pitch, eventually abandoning the game.
His heart stopped beating for 78 minutes, but the following Monday, Muamba regained consciousness in the London Chest Hospital. Later that year he returned to White Hart Lane, and received an emotional reception as he walked back onto the pitch, both player and fans choking back tears as he pointed to the spot where he had fallen.
He may have lost his playing career that day in 2012, but thanks to the incredible care and persistence of the medical team that treated him when at times it seemed futile, Fabrice Muamba was given a second chance at life.
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