Those of you who only rely on American media for your sports coverage may be missing what is likely to be the story of the year.
The fact that Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba is alive is nothing short of amazing. Those inclined to use such words may even say that it's "miraculous." Fans watching both on TV and in-person at White Hart Lane when Muamba collapsed to the ground on March 17 immediately assumed the worst. How could we not? Football fans have witnessed similar incidents in the past, and plenty of them included not-so-happy endings.
American news outlets have done well reporting the basic information regarding Muamba's condition. Once he came out of his coma earlier this past week, however, the Muamba story quickly disappeared from website front pages and non-soccer TV reports. The most important thing in all of this is obviously that Muamba is alive and seemingly getting stronger with every day. Only when you read up on the entire story do you realize just how incredible of a "straight out of an episode of ER" tale it is.
Muamba was dead at White Hart Lane on March 17. We now know that his heart stopped beating for a total of 78 minutes. The medics who first arrived to the aid of the player never gave up hope, however, continuing CPR first on the pitch, then in both the tunnel and the ambulance. Their efforts didn't just save Muamba's life. By continuing to work on him for nearly an hour and a half, the first responders and those working at the hospital on that night have seemingly prevented Muamba from experiencing any long-term memory loss or brain damage.
There's also Dr. Andrew Deaner, who was hardly on-call that night, to thank. Deaner, a cardiologist who found himself at the Lane last Saturday only because his nephew was away at university, waited just seconds after Muamba fell to the pitch before leaving his seat. Deaner convinced a steward to allow him onto the field, and the doctor then persuaded the medics to take the fallen Muamba to London Chest Hospital, a decision that may have changed everything. While every person would like to believe that he/she also would do the right thing if able to assist in such a scenario, the truth is that many, perhaps myself included, would have instead just sat on their hands and watched as the first responders attempted to save Muamba's life.
How is Muamba feeling one week after dying for over an hour? He's just fine, thank you very much; at least that's what he told the Bolton team doctor during this past midweek. Muamba has even been making jokes at the expense of his manager, and he also sent his teammates a message of support before Bolton's clash with Blackburn. Bolton won that match 2-1.
It's still very early, and there's plenty of time for events to occur between now and December 31. It will take something extremely magical to eclipse what has occurred in the last seven days. It's true that Muamba isn't out of the woods just yet. Nevertheless, those who did all they could to save Muamba are real life heroes, and the player's recovery continues to be the best sports story we have seen in recent memory. The hope is that we will soon witness Muamba addressing fans and the football world from outside hospital walls.
I sure hope he has a funny joke planned.
- Fabrice Muamba