Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba's ongoing recovery from a cardiac arrest was labelled "miraculous" today, as the doctors who battled to save his life revealed he was "effectively dead" for more than an hour.
Muamba collapsed towards the end of the first half of Bolton's FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham at White Hart Lane last Saturday. The match was abandoned soon afterwards and 23-year-old Muamba, who received treatment on the field, was taken to the nearby London Chest Hospital, where he has remained ever since.
Although the midfielder was now making encouraging progress, Bolton team doctor Jonathan Tobin said the player's heart had stopped working for 48 minutes before his arrival in hospital and for half an hour afterwards.
"In effect he was dead in that time," Tobin said. "Fabrice was in a type of cardiac arrest where the heart is showing lots of electrical activity but no muscular activity. It's something that often responds to drugs and shocks. Now heaven knows why, but Fabrice had, in total, 15 shocks. He had a further 12 shocks in the ambulance."
Tobin, who visited Muamba in hospital on Tuesday, said the player told him he felt "fine".
"I'm glad to say that the early signs of recovery have continued," Tobin said. "I went to see Fabrice last night. I went in and he said 'Hi, doc.' I asked him how he was and he said, 'fine'."
Tobin added Muamba had asked him what had happened to him. "I explained to him what had happened," Tobin said. "That's the sort of level of communication I have had with Fabrice."
Meanwhile cardiologist Dr Andrew Deaner, who rushed from his seat in the stands at White Hart Lane to help treat Muamba, said the player joked with him in intensive care after waking up. "I said 'I understand you're a very good footballer.' And he said 'I try'."
Deaner, widely praised for his efforts to save Muamba, added: "If you're going to use the term miraculous, it could be used here.
He added: "Something sort of told me I should go down. The adrenaline starts pumping when you see a cardiac arrest. Looking back, it wouldn't have been surprising if the guys there... said, 'Go away, we don't need anybody else'."
Turning to Muamba's current condition, a cautious Deaner said: "He's made a remarkable recovery so far. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves...As things stand, I think his life is not in danger at this time. His neurological function is looking very good but it is early days."
As players from around the world urged fans to "pray for Muamba" and supporters bombarded social networking site Twitter with well-wishes for the stricken player, Wanderers postponed their scheduled league fixture against Aston Villa on Tuesday.
But with Muamba now breathing independently and speaking to visitors at his hospital bed, Bolton said their Premier League match at home to Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers would go ahead as scheduled at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday.
The Football Association subsequently announced the FA Cup quarter-final, abandoned with the score at 1-1 after Muamba's collapse, had been re-arranged to take place at White Hart Lane on Tuesday 27 March.
"We spoke together with the players this [Wednesday] morning and I talked with Fabrice's family last [Tuesday] night," Bolton manager Owen Coyle told the club's official website. "Fabrice's father Marcel and fiancee Shauna were keen that we fulfil our fixture," Coyle, who has spent several days at Muamba's hospital bedside, said. "Once the players knew this, there was no doubt in our minds that we would play the matches."
Bolton are just a point above the relegation zone while Blackburn moved six points clear of the bottom three with a 2-0 win over Sunderland on Tuesday. Former England Under-21 international Muamba was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo but came to Britain at the age of 11.