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Gus Keri

A life-long Liverpool fan who resides in New York City and also supports the New York Red Bulls.


Fabrice Muamba And His Guardian Angel

Written by on March 22, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Posted in General

I will never forget what happened this past Saturday morning during an FA Cup game, just like that afternoon in 2003 when I was watching a Confederation Cup game, and the few other horrible events at soccer matches that I have witnessed over the years. But this time, something special happened. Hope has, eventually, prevailed.

I was answering a phone call from my sister during the Tottenham / Bolton game when, suddenly, I saw the play had stopped. I thought this was another injury like the many stoppages in soccer. So, I kept the conversation going thinking that I had few more minutes to spare.

Then at one moment I looked at the TV and saw a woman crying. I recognized that it was not any type of injury. I don’t know how I ended the conversation to get back to the game. At that time, I saw people praying. Commentators were in disbelief. Finally, it hit me. Another player had lost his life, it seemed.

My thought immediately went back to that afternoon when Marc-Vivien Foe passed away while playing for his country, Cameroon, in the 2003 Confederation Cup. I was in disbelief, then, that with all the advancement in emergency medical care, another young man was lost.

I was probably naïve to think this way. After all, not all the victims of cardiac arrest survive a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) protocol. As a matter of fact, somewhere between 2 – 22% of people who have cardiac arrest will survive after a CPR. [From Wikipedia]

Why is there such huge discrepancy?

The highest success rate (22%) occurs in a hospital setting when the arrest is witnessed by somebody and a team of specialists are immediately available. The chance of surviving will improve to (30%) if defibrillation was applied within 3-5 minutes of arrest.

The lowest success rate (2%) occurs when the arrest takes place outside the hospital and no CPR initiated until the ambulance arrives. The chance of surviving will improve to almost (5%) if a bystander initiates CPR immediately.

There is a lesson to be learned from these figures. The more knowledgeable of CPR the people around the victim are, the better the chance of surviving. I learned this fact a long time ago. It was 25 years ago, to be exact, when I took my first CPR course. 

I remember four years ago when I was traveling through the city of San Francisco. I was sitting in the waiting area, working on my computer. Suddenly, I heard an over-head announcer calling for help for a victim of arrest.

It had been quite few years since I last renewed my CPR license, which is supposed to be renewed every 2 years for validity. Nevertheless, I ran to the announcer and offered my help. She gladly guided me to the place.

On arrival, I saw a 4 years old boy lying on the floor motionless. There were three men surrounding his little body and a woman at his head checking his mouth. Having arrived later than they had, I observed them for few seconds to see if they need my help.

I immediately recognized that none of them had any CPR training and the child was not getting any better. They all looked very concerned and wanted to help this poor child, but unfortunately, best intentions sometimes is not enough. I couldn’t watch any more.

I pushed through the crowd and said to them, “let me help, please.” The three men immediately moved out of the way and let me in. To me, it was a sign that they appreciated any help I could offer. It reassured me and I started searching for signs of life.

There was no pulse. I immediately provided a support to his back and started chest compression. “one-and-two-and-three-and..,” I started counting inside my head. It wasn’t long before I hit the number “ten,” the child coughed a little bit of multicolored foam from his mouth. I recognized that he probably choked on his candy and that led to his cardiac arrest.

Now that the heart is beating again, I cleaned his mouth of what obstructing his airway and suddenly, the boy made a little sound. It was a small cry but to me it was like a beautiful music. It was a magical moment. With a great relief, I told his devastated mother, “He is OK.”

A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and took the child and his family to the hospital. I returned to my seat fully satisfied with myself and what I had done. I was so glad I had taken that CPR course. Spending few hours every few years learning CPR is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my entire life.

This incidence confirmed what I had known a long time ago that the more experienced the rescuers and the sooner the CPR implemented, the better the surviving chance for the victim.

But not every one is as lucky as that child. In spite of the immediate attention and the presence of experts, CPR didn’t help Marc Vivien Foe and he was pronounced dead after 45 minutes of CPR.

Knowing Foe’s story and the many other players who lost their lives playing soccer or any other sports made me pessimistic about Fabrice Muamba’s chance of surviving. I prepared myself for the worst.

Then a glimmer of hope came along with the news of his heart coming back to life again. He had made it to the intensive care with him breathing and his heart beating. It was a triumphant rise from the ashes; just like a sphinx.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, a question kept popping up. How did it all happen? And it didn’t take long until the answer became clear.

Dr Andrew Deaner, a cardiologist and a Spurs’ fan, was in the stand that day. He was looking for an afternoon of relaxation away from his highly stressful job and his busy schedule at the hospital. He was probably off-duty; or he might have been hoping for quite afternoon without any emergency call. He didn’t know that he would be called upon to do the same heroic job he was trying to get away from for a couple of hours.

Dr Deaner wasn’t employed by Spurs and there was no obligation for him to go down with all these medics on the field. But a voice deep inside him told him that he was needed. He didn’t know if the guards would let him in or deny him access or even the medics would let him be part of the rescue effort; nevertheless, he marched on, answering the call of duty.

Dr Deaner, not only was part of the effort to save Fabrice, but he even guided the medics to his hospital where he led the resuscitation effort until Muamba’s heart started beating again. He doggedly persevered when all odds where against him succeeding. It took 78 minutes of CPR for the heart to come back; a staggering number for an average CPR attempt.

But there was nothing average about this case. Every thing came together for Fabrice like a perfect storm. For a start, it was a high profile event sponsored by one of the richest football associations in the world. There were highly trained experts on hand with the best medical facility in the nearby.

But what about the millions of people who play the game around the world, can they count on highly trained medics, let alone a cardiologist, present at the ground when they play in the Arizona desert, the Himalaya Mountains or the jungles of Africa?

Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere at anytime; on the field, on the bench or in the stand. It can occur even while walking down the street or during sleep. There is something people can do to bring that 2% survival rate as close as possible to the optimal 30%.  It’s learning CPR. It wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea to make obtaining CPR license mandatory for each high school graduate.

Coming back to Fabrice Muamba’s case, he might not be out of the woods yet, but surely, things look much more promising than they did a couple of days ago. There are still few questions that need to be answered, though.

What drove Dr Deaner from his seat and push him to lead the rescue mission? What made the rescue effort go “faultlessly” as per his words? What led him to persevere 78 minutes when others might have quit much earlier? We might never know the answers. But somewhere in a London hospital, lie a young man who will be for ever thankful for his guardian angel.

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2 responses to “Fabrice Muamba And His Guardian Angel”

  1. Erik says:

    AWESOME piece, Gus! You can feel the heartfelt emotions you had when doing this. And CONGRATS to Dr. Deaner for being at the right place at the right time and then acting on it. Amd Kudos to the WHL Security Staff for letting the Doc on the field. How he pulled that off – no clue but congrats to all for a job very well done

  2. Gus Keri says:

    Thank you, Erik

    An emotional event like this brings back so many memories.

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