Imagine this scenario: a packed Stade Amahoro, screaming football fans and a pulsating match pitting arch-rivals APR FC and Rayon Sport. Now picture this; as the extremely fit young men run, jump, tackle and shoot in frantic gusto, all of a sudden, an APR FC player kneels over and collapses on the pitch, with no one closer than ten metres from him. The game continues for a few seconds as the players, referee and coaching staff look at the prone figure in bewilderment. Then all of a sudden the stadium becomes as quiet as a morgue as the medical staff of the football club rush over to the player, the other 21 watching the unfolding events in horror.
As the APR FC football club doctors, more used to dealing with sprained ankles and bruised ligaments, attempt to revive the fallen player it dawns on the watching crowd that they might be watching a man die right in front of them. Belatedly, an ambulance appears on the scene and he’s driven to King Faisal Hospital and the game is called off. It’s taken about thirty minutes, from the time he collapsed to the time he was bundled into an ambulance.
This scenario, give or take a few major differences, occurred in England a week or two ago. In a FA Cup quarter-final match pitting Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspurs on 17, March, Fabrice Muamba, a Bolton player collapsed on the turf during the first half, suffering cardiac failure.
After receiving lengthy attention on the pitch from medical personnel including a consultant cardiologist who was at the game as a fan, he was taken to the specialist coronary care unit at the London Chest Hospital. Bolton’s club doctor later told the press that that Muamba’s heart had stopped for 78 minutes.
By 19 March, his heart was beating without medication and he was able to move his limbs, and later that day his condition was described as “serious” rather than “critical” and he was able to recognise family members and respond appropriately to questions. By 21 March, his consultant suggested that Muamba’s progress had “exceeded our expectations” and that although he faced a “lengthy recovery period”, “normal life [was] within the spectrum of possibility”. The latest news from London is that he has been able to sit up, eat by himself and watch his team-mates play on television.
Stories like that gladden the heart; he was obviously popular and everyone is wishing him a quick recovery. But for every miraculous ‘Muamba’, we have a ‘Marc-Vivien Foé. The Cameroonian international collapsed and died during a FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal on 26th June, 2003, suffering cardiac arrest.
Now back to Rwanda, would the APR FC player have made it? I’m sure that the medical staff would have worked extremely hard, but he would have died. Not because the King Faisal Hospital staff weren’t good enough, but rather because the first aid care he received at the stadium was inadequate.
Let’s imagine this had happened during one of the Friday Sports Day that civil servants indulge in. An almost certain fatality would ensure, simply because no one is ever trained in emergency first aid. How would you, a parent, react to the sight of your child’s face turning blue as he/she chocked on their food? Would you know what to do to save their live?
In North America, basic first aid and ‘what to do in case of emergency’ is taught to children in school. Children are taught what to do in case of tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, electric shock and yes, chocking. This kind of knowledge is often the difference between life and death and sadly, this knowledge isnt imparted either to the young ones or their parents. This is something that is simply unacceptable and the Ministry of Education, working with the disaster and health ministries, should include this in their curriculum.
So, back to the question, “what would have been Mr. Muamba’s fate”? He’d have been dead and buried by now, and that is the honest truth.