THESE are still early days and this type of road to recovery can be fraught with setbacks but a full picture of Fabrice Muamba's emergence from catastrophic heart failure became clear last night, illustrating that his survival has been little less than miraculous.
As The Independent reported yesterday, Muamba's club, Bolton Wanderers, will fulfil their relegation fixture with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and replay on Tuesday the FA Cup quarter-final with Tottenham Hotspur, which was abandoned after the 23-year-old collapsed on the pitch.
But as Owen Coyle, back in the North-west on Tuesday night, yesterday took his first training session since the traumatic events at White Hart Lane, the Bolton team doctor Jonathan Tobin revealed that the England Under-21 international needed 15 defibrillator shocks as medical staff took one hour, 18 minutes to get the heart beating again. Dr Tobin also told of the frenzied scenes in the ambulance on the way from White Hart Lane, the sheer physical effort in working on the player in that confined space - and his conviction that Muamba stood minimal chance of surviving, when he had arrived at the London Chest Hospital. Medical staff worked on Muamba for 48 minutes between his collapse and arrival at the hospital, last Saturday. A further 30 minutes were then needed to get his heart working on its own. "In effect, he was dead in that time," said Dr Tobin, who described breaking down in the hospital corridor when the seriousness of what had happened to the player hit home - and added that he had feared the worst.
Muamba received two shocks from the defibrillator on the pitch as medical staff from both clubs struggled to get his heart going. Recalling the moment he arrived at the player's side, as he lay face down on the ground, Dr Tobin said: "I can't begin to explain the pressure that was there. Fabrice was in a type of cardiac arrest where the heart is showing lots of electrical activity but no muscular activity. It's something that often responds to drugs and shocks. Fabrice had, in total, 15 shocks. He had 12 shocks in the ambulance."
Consultant cardiologist Dr Sam Mohiddin, who has been caring for Muamba at the hospital, said it was "extraordinary" for someone whose heart has stopped beating for as long as the player's did to make the kind of progress he has made. "Fabrice has continued to demonstrate positive signs of recovery and he has not only exceeded our expectations but also our hopes in the way he's recovered," he said. "But this remains very early in what could be a lengthy recovery period."
It was Dr Tobin who detailed the long period of struggle to get the player's heart started. Dr Tobin admitted he broke down in tears in the hospital corridor when the seriousness of what had happened to the player hit home - and added that he had feared the worst.
Dr Andrew Deaner, the cardiologist and Tottenham fan who leapt from his seat in the crowd and rushed on to the pitch to help the player, said: "If you're going to use the term miraculous, I guess it could be used here." He also described visiting the player after he had woken up, when Muamba was able to make a joke - at a remarkably early point in his recovery process. "I whispered into his ear 'What's your name?'" Dr Deaner said. When Muamba gave his name, Dr Deaner said to him: "I understand you're a very good footballer'. And he said 'I try'."
Dr Deaner said he had tears in his eyes at witnessing that sign of the player's sense of humour returning so soon. He also recalled how he had been watching the match with his brother when he saw Muamba collapse and doctors rush to his side. Turning to his brother, he said: "They're doing CPR. I should help." His brother agreed and so the father of three sprang into action. "Something sort of told me I should go down," he said. "Looking back, it wouldn't have been surprising if the guys there said 'Go away, we don't need anybody else'. But if you were going to make a film to teach people how to run a complex arrest, this would have been the one to film. One thing after another went right."
Reports last night said an Indian footballer died after collapsing on the pitch during a district-level league match. The 27-year-old Bangalore Mars striker D Venkatesh collapsed following a cardiac arrest at the Bangalore Football Stadium. With no ambulance available, his team-mates hired a tuk-tuk to take him to a local hospital where Venkatesh was declared dead.