Christian Eriksen collapsed & I thought ‘please God, not again’

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HOLDING the ripped shirt and muddy football boots he “died” in for 78 minutes, Fabrice Muamba beams from ear to ear as he acknowledges how lucky he is to be alive.

Ten years ago the Bolton Wanderers ace collapsed from a cardiac arrest on the pitch while playing at Tottenham, only to be miraculously brought back to life by the quick actions of a handful of heroes at the stadium.

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Fabrice poses with his wife ShaunaCredit: Arthur Edwards / The Sun
Fabrice suffered a huge heart attack on the pitch in 2012

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Fabrice suffered a huge heart attack on the pitch in 2012Credit: PA:Empics Sport
Fabrice poses with the ripped shirt doctors tore off him to treat him

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Fabrice poses with the ripped shirt doctors tore off him to treat himCredit: Arthur Edwards / The Sun

Today, in a remarkable update to his story, Fabrice has told how he is finally getting back into football — as a coach to his former team’s rising young stars.

The ex-central midfielder, now 33, said: “I’m lucky to even still be here. Every day for the last ten years has been a blessing.

“To be back on the grass, kicking a ball at Bolton Wanderers, coaching in their academy, the club I was playing for when they brought me back round, feels fitting. I’m so happy.

“My dream is to one day manage, to be manager of Bolton and take them back to Tottenham, where I had my accident. Wow, that would be written in the stars.”

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In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Fabrice revealed how he has become close friends with the hero doctors who saved his life — and how he watched in horror as fellow player Christian Eriksen collapsed in similar circumstances last summer.

Fabrice, who made 130 appearances for Bolton and played for England Under-21s, felt “completely fit and healthy” as he travelled to London for Bolton’s crunch FA Cup game against Spurs on March 17, 2012.

The dad of four said: “The night before, I’d prayed with my dad, like I usually would.

“I felt fine the next day at the stadium. I remember walking around the ground and just feeling excitement — nothing strange.

“The game started and it soon became a blur. I can only remember five or ten minutes before it happened.

“I remember almost scoring and then running back. All of a sudden my vision started to be very blurry and literally out of nowhere I hit the ground, and that was it.”

Fabrice had suffered a huge heart attack. Players stood around stunned and in tears as medics desperately tried to resuscitate him.

Then out of the stands came Tottenham fan and consultant cardiologist Dr Andrew Deaner, who swiftly told staff what to do and to get him to the nearby London Chest Hospital.

As supporters from both sides sang Fabrice’s name, he was given 15 defibrillation shocks to try to restart his heart — two on the pitch, one in the tunnel, then 12 in the ambulance.

Once in hospital, Fabrice slowly began to improve, and amazingly, 48 hours later, he woke up.

He said: “I was heavily drugged up and came round for a couple of minutes. The first person I saw was Dr Deaner. He whispered to me, ‘are you a good footballer?’ I said, ‘I try’.

“I then started to come back more regularly. I didn’t know the severity of it. People I hadn’t seen for ages kept coming in. I was thinking, ‘this is surreal, what’s going on?’

“Two of the doctors eventually explained how big it was. I was in disbelief. I thought, ‘this can’t happen to me’. They said, ‘you are very lucky just to be here with us’.

“The longer I stayed in hospital I realised I was in big trouble. The first issue was getting my kidney working, then they put a pacemaker in. Even then I thought I could play again.”

Fabrice was in hospital for 41 days. Four months later he was taken to Belgium to see another specialist.

He said: “I still thought the doctor could perform a miracle, but he said, ‘you going back to playing is like running into your own grave’.

‘IT WAS DEVASTATING’

“It was devastating. I felt like my dream had been taken away. But then I realised so many people had gone down the same dark path and had not had such a good outcome. I quickly realised I was just lucky to be at home with my family, alive.”

Fabrice’s ordeal came to mind again last June when Danish international Christian Eriksen collapsed with a cardiac arrest while playing for his country at Euro 2020.

Miraculously, the 30-year-old midfielder survived too, and has even managed to return to his playing career after signing for Brentford.

Fabrice said: “Christian’s collapse really brought it home for me. I was like, ‘oh my god, please, not this again, please come through’. I was thinking of him but also his family.

“Him being alive is remarkable. Him playing again is unbelievable. I just hope he is safe and well.”

For Fabrice, the toughest part of his recovery was adjusting to his forced retirement from football.

He said: “In the days after, I was getting up and thinking, ‘I’m going to training’ and then you realise you’re not. It was difficult. I had to find a new routine. I threw myself into the housework, taking the kids to school, stuff like that.

“I thought in my mind that I would retire at 34 or 35. But instead I was 23 and didn’t know what to do. When I collapsed on the pitch I was a professional footballer and when I woke up I was an ex pro, just a normal person. It was tricky.”

Fabrice threw himself into raising awareness of cardiac arrests and the need for life-saving defibrillators.

He worked for the Professional Footballers’ Association and did his coaching badges. But he found it hard to watch football.

He said: “Until very recently I found it very difficult to watch the warm-ups at live games or even the players coming on to the pitch because I missed the ambience of the ground and the camaraderie.”

He realised he had to try to find closure, and said: “I saw a neurologist and I went to a PFA therapist and had counselling. It was very helpful. I also decided I wanted to watch what happened to me.

“I watched it twice. It was emotional and hard to watch. It was surreal and like an out-of-body experience, like it wasn’t me. But it helped me to process it.”

In November 2012 he was invited back to White Hart Lane and at half time he stood on the spot where he had collapsed.

‘GAVE ME GREAT CLOSURE’

He said: “That was emotional, I needed it. I’m glad I did it. People were clapping and I was able to piece it together. It gave me great closure.”

At Fabrice’s home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, there is little sign of his footballing days. Instead, pictures of his wife Shauna, 35, boys Joshua, 13, Matthew, eight, and five-year-old Gabriel and 20-month-old daughter Zuri adorn the walls.

He said: “I don’t have much stuff around the house because we try not to live in the past and focus on the present.

“I’ve still got the boots I was wearing that day, and the ripped shirt and shorts which the doctors tore off me to treat me, but I don’t get that out very often.”

Eldest son Joshua was three when Fabrice retired and just old enough to have seen him play, but he said: “The other lot don’t even believe I played football. They think I’m lying.”

Fabrice, who is still a picture of athleticism, added: “My life is so different now. I take the kids to school and get on with work at home. I usually try to go to the gym.

“On Saturday, instead of going to play in the Premier League, I’m the taxi man for the kids. I take them to swimming, football and jujitsu. It’s a new normal.”
But from his trauma some great friendships have grown. Fabrice, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bolton, said he talks to Dr Deaner and his cardiologist Dr Sam Mohidin most weeks.

He added: “We have a real bond. I will for ever owe my life to them. They came to our wedding in 2012 and I speak all the time to them. I always joke, ‘I’m a doctor too now, remember’.”

Fabrice still has regular check-ups, as do his sons, as they have inherited the gene for the defect, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart muscle to grow abnormally thicker, making it harder to pump blood and raising the risk of a heart attack.

‘WHY ME?’

He finds it hardest to deal with seeing others who were less fortunate than himself and said he was “really set back” at the death of cricket legend Shane Warne from a heart attack this month at just 52.

He said: “Things like Shane’s death get to me. It makes me question, ‘why me?’

“For me, it couldn’t have happened at a better place. Everything aligned. I had the best medical staff I could have asked for that day. They made sure they did the job. Dr Deaner was there as a fan. I was very fortunate.”

For now, Fabrice is counting the days until he begins coaching at Bolton’s Academy this summer.

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He said: “Now is a great time. It’s been a while and I’ve wanted to get back in and make a contribution to the football club.

“It’ll be nice to help them. I feel I owe them one, I owe the people of Bolton. There’s an unfinished story there.”

Fabrice, pictured over 10 years ago, is back on the grass, kicking a ball at Bolton Wanderers and coaching in their academy'

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Fabrice, pictured over 10 years ago, is back on the grass, kicking a ball at Bolton Wanderers and coaching in their academy’Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Fabrice watched in horror as fellow player Christian Eriksen collapsed in similar circumstances last summer

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Fabrice watched in horror as fellow player Christian Eriksen collapsed in similar circumstances last summerCredit: AFP
Fabrice poses with the boots he was wearing on the day he suffered from a heart attack on the pitch

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Fabrice poses with the boots he was wearing on the day he suffered from a heart attack on the pitchCredit: Arthur Edwards / The Sun

Fighting for lives

JUST months after Fabrice’s collapse he presented a British Heart Foundation petition backed by The Sun to 10 Downing Street calling for life-saving skills to be a mandatory part of secondary education.

And he has campaigned for 1,000 defibrillators – which shock the heart back into beating properly – to be installed in public places around the UK.

Fabrice said: “I would never have got married or seen three of my four children born if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time, near the doctor who saved my life, and near a defibrillator.

“One person told me a person at their work had been saved by a defibrillator that was installed in the past few years.

“I want defibrillators in every building, youth and sports club in the country. That’s the dream.”

To learn more about defibrillators and how to administer CPR, visit bhf.org.uk.





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