Footballer’s life-saving cardiologist backs cycling marathon

The football spectator who saved Fabrice Muamab's life says Malta can easily change the way people prepare for similar cases of sudden heart attacks.

You may not have heard about Dr Andrew Deaner, but chances are you have heard of international player Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed during an F.A Cup game in 2012. Dr Deaner, a leading cardiologist, was one of those who were instrumental in saving Muamba’s life, despite him having been effectively dead for 78 minutes.

A routine F.A cup game between top tier English clubs Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton Wanderers became a call to action for Deaner, who was in the stands watching his favourite North London club.

Shortly after the 40th minute, 23 year-old Muamba’s sudden collapse muted the White Hart Lane stadium. Numerous YouTube videos show the spectators astonished and speechless at what was happening in front of them. But not Dr Andrew Deaner, who said that during these times when a cardiac arrest occurs, adrenaline automatically pumps in to help a save a life.

“I was there as a spectator and from the first instant I knew that something was wrong. I could see straightaway that medics were administering CPR and with the help of a senior steward, I ran off to the pitch to see whether my help was needed,” the cardiologist recounts to MaltaToday.

He says that with the commotion he could hardly remember what went through his mind on the pitch but says that he only got involved after the 23-year old midfielder left the pitch.

In the ambulance, Deaner took the courageous decision to take Fabrice Muamba to the London Chest Hospital where he worked, instead of another hospital that was much nearer. Although further away, Deaner knew that his hospital was much better equipped to deal with these cases than any other.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision. Both the paramedics of the London ambulance and I were thinking along the same lines. There were enough people in the ambulance to carry on resuscitation until we got there,” Deaner explains, who adds that although it was a complex situation no one ever criticised this decision.

Fabrice Muamba, who emerged from the youth ranks of Arsenal and also played for the England U-21 side, became conscious only after 36 hours. Deaner says he was impressed with his recovery and how he retrieved his speaking ability instantly.

“When he came round I asked him his name and he answered accordingly. I then whispered in his ear that I heard he was a good player, and with a smile on his face, he told me that he tries to be one. It was close to a miracle but I don’t believe in such things. What happened was the result of really good planning, training and the effect of appropriate treatment,” Deaner says.

Five months after the incident, Fabrice Muamba retired from professional football following medical advice. He made more than 200 appearances for Birmingham City and Premier League side Bolton Wanderers, scoring five goals in the process.

The leading cardiologist underlines that sadly, similar cases occur relatively frequently in the United Kingdom, with around 400-600 young adults being affected annually. In Malta, this amounts to roughly 10 healthy young adults per year.

This is one of the reasons why Deaner was brought to Malta to support the Cycling Marathon taking place this weekend, which aims to create awareness about CPR among students and teachers, and raise funds to acquire a defibrillator for every school.

“This is a very important initiative. Since Malta is a very small country, it is in a position to completely change the way one can prepare for similar cases. Education such as how to give CPR, as well as defibrillators within reachable distance can increase the survival rate of those affected by 50%,” Deaner said.

This year’s cycling marathon will aim to create more awareness about heart-related issues. Life-saving equipment such as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) will be donated to schools intended to help in scenarios of heart failures.

More in Health