Luck No, it was fabulous first aid that saved my life, says footballer Fabrice Muamba as he praises medics who brought him back from the brink of deathBolton Wanderers player was only given a five per cent chance to surviveFabrice Muamba has made a full recovery and thanks the emergency service staff's swift action
16:23 GMT, 25 November 2012
Of all people, one would expect Fabrice Muamba to believe in the power of luck. In March, football fans around the world watched in horror as the Bolton Wanderers player fell to the ground during an FA Cup match against Spurs and lay motionless.
He suffered a cardiac arrest and his heart stopped for 78 minutes. The nation was joined in prayer but privately even the most optimistic person did not expect him to survive. Yet, against seemingly insurmountable odds, he did. Just five per cent of those who suffer a similar attack will live.
And, more than that, the 24-year-old has made a full recovery. Unbelievably lucky Not so. ‘First aid saved my life,’ he says. ‘There is no such thing as luck when it comes to a cardiac arrest – it’s about having the right people there at the right time. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for the first aid I had been given in the moments after I collapsed.
Quick action: Fabrice Muamba is seen receiving first aid after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during an FA Cup game
‘I can’t express how grateful I still am for the care I received.’
Last week, Fabrice was guest of honour at the St John Ambulance First Aid Awards ceremony. Launched last year by The Mail on Sunday, it recognises the bravery and courage of everyday heroes whose first-aid skills save lives. Fabrice says he couldn’t be a better example of why everyone should have at least a basic knowledge of first aid.
When his heart stopped, the medics who rushed on to the pitch could be seen desperately administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – manually breathing into the mouth and then pumping the chest to keep the blood flowing around his body and oxygen going to his brain. The footballer was then given three shocks using a defibrillator, but his heart still did not start.
It was only after being transferred to an ambulance and receiving 12 more electrical shocks that his heart started working again. In the months that followed, doctors were astounded as he recovered without suffering any brain damage.
The speed of his treatment on the pitch was key: for every minute of delay in starting CPR, the chance of survival reduces by ten per cent. In Fabrice’s case, he was treated within seconds of his heart stopping.
Tribute: Fabrice with Lee Craven, right, who saved his friend Max Davies, left, and was praised at the St John Ambulance First Aid Awards
He remembers nothing of the collapse or the days after, but he does recall when he was first able to go to the lavatory normally. ‘My kidney wasn’t working as I had been down for so long, but one day it just kicked in and my urine was normal. I couldn’t go before that, which was uncomfortable, but when I could go again it was better than any present I could have been given.’
Muamba has had a pacemaker fitted to correct the irregular heartbeat that caused his collapse and he has been forced to retire from professional football. ‘I am happy though,’ he says. ‘I am getting better every day and I now spend my time doing different things, such as being with my friends and family.’
Sue Killen, chief executive of St John Ambulance, says Fabrice’s case epitomises how vital first aid training is. ‘His incident raised public awareness of the need for first aid to a new level,’ she said. ‘As the tragedy unfolded on TV, millions saw how important it can be in an emergency. Fabrice was lucky he was surrounded by people who knew first aid, who were the difference between life and death. But it shouldn’t be the case that people are lucky to have a first-aider nearby – it’s a simple skill everyone can learn and we hope these awards encourage people to take that first step.’
Also presenting an award last week was Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne, who realised the value of first aid recently.
Last month, the 63-year-old suffered excruciating chest pains and collapsed on to the floor of his office. His secretary walked in and quickly dialled 999. His staff, who are trained in first aid, knew he had collapsed into the recovery position, had a regular heartbeat and was lucid, so should be left where he was.
Within minutes an ambulance had arrived and he was taken to hospital where his heart was monitored with an ECG. ‘I thought it was a heart attack or a stroke but it was a panic attack,’ says Bannatyne. ‘I am going through a stressful divorce. If I have to sell part of the business to pay for it, people will lose their jobs. Some of them are single parents and it’s a very difficult time.’
Scare: Shocked Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton Wanderers players watch Fabrice Muamba being treated by medical staff after his collapse
Saviours: Consultant cardiologist Andrew Deaner leads the ways as Fabrice Muamba is taken off the pitch in March this year
Bannatyne, who runs a chain of gyms and hotels, says he reduced his working hours slightly following the scare, but has now returned to his regular schedule and works out with a personal trainer.
He says: ‘My staff are trained in first aid but I’d never realised how important it was to be surrounded by people confident in a crisis.’
For thousands of Britons there is no such quick recovery. Up to 140,000 people who die each year might have been saved if those around them had known first aid.
The Guy Evans Award was set up to honour those who have used first aid for the first time with remarkable results. In 1998, Guy, 17, died after a motorbike crash because he was not given basic first aid to ensure he could breathe.
His mother, Beth Chesney-Evans, has since campaigned for everyone – especially the young – to learn first-aid skills, and was instrumental in setting up the SJA Awards. On Monday, Mail on Sunday readers voted for Lee Craven, 17, to be crowned winner of this year’s trophy. Lee, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, saved the life of his friend Max Davies who had fallen through the ice of a local canal.
Full-recovery: Fabrice Muamba's miraculous recovery has progressed so well that he is set to take part in the Christmas special of Strictly Come Dancing
The two had just left a house-party when Max ventured on to what he thought was a road, but was actually a grey, frozen canal. Within seconds he had fallen through the ice and was pulled away from the hole he had created.
Lee quickly ran down the bank, wrapped his legs around a tree stump and leaned across the ice, plunging his upper body below the water and reaching out into the darkness until he felt his friend’s fingertips.
After hauling him out, he noticed Max was showing signs of hypothermia, so he took him back to the house and warmed him up slowly – a trick that prevents the body from going into shock.
‘I just did what I had been trained to do,’ Lee says. ‘I felt calm and knew I had to get down there and get Max out. I’m really pleased I won this award – I think first aid should be a basic skill that everyone has.’
The Workplace Hero Award was given to Tesco security guard Graeme Beddows, whose quick thinking saved the life of a choking baby. After performing back-slaps and removing the obstruction from the infant’s mouth, he calmly handed the child back to its father and returned to work.
Other winners included Chris Richards, a retired firefighter who saved the life of a fellow football player whose heart stopped while playing in a charity match in Devon.
‘We want to thank The Mail on Sunday’s readers for their incredible support for our awards,’ says Killen. ‘Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. All the entrants are winners in our eyes, and their incredible stories prove there is no greater gift than to give someone their life back.’