Fabrice Muamba is fighting for his life less than 36 hours suffering a cardiac arrest on the field of play. At this point, the world soccer community is praying for his recovery, and not mourning his loss, because of the heroic work of the medical staff on site at White Hart Lane.
As the first half of Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal between Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers was nearing its end, Muamba collapsed and lay face down on the field. Those watching knew right away that something was wrong, and the trained medical professionals sprang to action.
Referee Howard Webb summoned club doctors to the field, and they were accompanied by stretcher-bearing paramedics and physiotherapists.
Muamba’s heart had stopped beating, and those first responders attempted to restart it using a defibrillator. When the electric shocks did not work, they used an oxygen mask and performed chest compressions to save the 23-year-old’s life.
They attempted to resucitate him for over 10 minutes on the field, before carrying him to an ambulance that was already on site. They continued to deliver oxygen to his body en route to London’s Chest Hospital, where he remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit. On Sunday, it was revealed that his heart began pumping on its own nearly two hours after it had stopped.
The Guardian reports the Premier League implemented new rules in 2007, which require medical personnel to have immediate access to the field. The league also requires an ambulance to be present at all games in case of emergencies like Saturday’s.
“An official Chelsea complaint led to an FA and Premier League review, which introduced new measures from 2007, including the requirement for every game to have an ambulance on standby for players and officials,” the Guardian report says.
“Other regulations made it compulsory for clubs to provide two paramedic stretcher-bearers, with a club doctor and physiotherapists on the team benches, as well as a qualified “crowd doctor” on standby.”
These regulations put medical professionals in place to act quickly and decisively. Their actions — simultaneously frantic and calm — gave the stricken Muamba a fighting chance at survival. His prognosis is unknown, and he may never play again. But if a fiancee, father and friend pulls through this, it will be a triumph of both the human spirit and the craft of modern-day first response.
Let us now praise these famous men. We may not know their names, but medical staff at White Hart Lane deserve as much adulation from the sporting public as the players whose lives they can (and have) save in such moments of crisis.