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March 23rd, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Would you get the care Muamba did?

Could everyday folks get the kind of intensive resuscitation efforts that Fabrice Muamba, a soccer player whose heart stopped beating for 78 minutes?

The 23-year-old pro-athlete’s cardiac arrest and his subsequent revival during a British soccer match generated international headlines this week.  Muamba was described as being “in effect dead” by the team doctor.

Doctors applied life-saving measures such as chest compressions and 15 defibrillator shocks during the 48 minutes to get Muamba to the hospital and an additional 30 minutes at the hospital. Muamba remains at a hospital in London and has been talking.

His recovery shows the wonders of the human body and modern medicine.

“It's rare that somebody after 78 minutes can be revived,” said Dr. Susmita Parahsar, an assistant professor of medicine and cardiology at Emory University.

The ability to resuscitate him after more than an hour is “remarkable – this case is more exceptional than most,” said Dr. Benjamin Abella, the clinical research director in the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Neither doctor is involved in Muamba’s care.

From the stadium to the hospital, doctors in England tried for over an hour to resuscitate Muamba. He had a type of cardiac arrest where the heart showed lots of electrical activity but no muscular activity, according to the team's doctor. 

An electrical system controls the heart and uses these electrical signals to contract the heart's walls. But without the pumping action of the heart, the blood can’t move and carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. When a person’s heart stops, medical workers compress the patient’s chest to manually pump the heart and keep blood flowing throughout the body.  In Muamba’s case, CPR continued for well over an hour.

Would most people suffering cardiac arrest get the same level of first aid that was given to Muamba?

“No, they wouldn’t,” said Abella.  “They would not necessarily have access to that care.”

Muamba’s circumstances were highly unusual since he collapsed publicly in the middle of the soccer game where there were doctors on sidelines who immediately came to his side.

“It helped that it happened in a public setting. At their home, the response would’ve been much slower,” Abella said.

Life-saving techniques, such as CPR and cooling a patient's body called  therapeutic hypothermia are blurring the line between life and death.  

“What used to be an on-or-off thing, it’s becoming a gray area,” he said.  “You can be mostly dead. You can be restored back to health and life, so that’s becoming hard to define.”

Typically, doctors view about 20 to 30 minutes as the limits for survival, although some resuscitation efforts have continued for over an hour, Abella said.  Muamba’s survival is a testament that the first-responders on the soccer field “did a fantastic job of CPR and defibrillation.”

There is no defined length of time that doctors are supposed to continue CPR.

“As a physician, the hardest thing about CPR is to know when to stop,” said Parashar.  “You want to do your best for the person. Every person, every case is different. Sometimes, for a person who’s young, you do your best and go on for some more time. There is no cut off.”

All organs in the body depend on blood flow so when the heart stops pumping properly, this can cut off blood flow and damage any organ in the body such as the brain, liver and kidneys. Some people after an incident like Muamba’s recover without any neurological damage.  But they might have defibrillator burns and chest pains from the CPR.


soundoff (150 Responses)
  1. Mike

    The doctor that brought him back is available to anybody on 24/7 basis.
    His name is YESHUA or more commonly known as JESUS
    He brought Muamba back.

    March 26, 2012 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris B

      There is no God, just science, Muamba benefited from the evolution of medicine and the ever evolving techniques for treating the human body.

      March 26, 2012 at 21:07 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Seriously? You can't even give credit to the actual people doing the work? You think God intervened in Muamba's life? Why? What made him special? Why didn't God intervene in any of the other ~2,200 people who die from heart issues/strokes per day in the US (or any other country/cause of death for that matter)?

      And since you're using a Hebrew spelling (thank Pesci for Google!) I'm guessing you're all for the literal interpretation of the Bible. So tell me, how many people have you put to death for adultery this week? I'm pretty sure even the most devout Christian would grow tired of the endless slaughter.

      March 26, 2012 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • Agree with Mike

      Mike is right. God did give man the knowledge in the health science. I hope Muamba can make a full recovery and make it back to the pitch. What a great player.

      March 26, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • lordpet

      Mike, didn't God cast man out of Eden for getting knowledge against His wishes?

      March 27, 2012 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
  2. Gordy

    I haven't seen anything that dosn't make me think Satan had something to do with it. I think Satan was distracted, and the Ghostbusters swooped in and pulled this guy back from the brink.....Jesus wasn't involved, his union contract expressly forbids him from intervening in the sports world.

    March 27, 2012 at 01:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. samadams

    We wouldn't get the care that Dick Cheney gets either.

    March 27, 2012 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gjldfjgs

      I will have to rethink my comittment to be an organ donor. I would be vary upset if my heart were used to save a war criminal.

      March 27, 2012 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • jean

      Boy are you right!! At age 71 any of the rest of us would be considered too old, the. heart would go to someone younger since there is a shortage of transplantable hearts. Frankly that is a valid argument, Cheny has lived a full life and there are many young heart patients who need a chance to do the same. Of course Cheny is rich...and famous..and ..well, we get the picture. I wonder who got bumped in line so Cheny would go first?

      March 27, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • Bixi Belle

      It's all about the money....

      March 28, 2012 at 06:57 | Report abuse |
  4. doug

    wHY DID GOD LET HIM HAVE A HEART ATTACK TO BEGIN WITH???

    March 27, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. gjldfjgs

    If the GOP/teabaggers get thier way, he would have to prove he has insurance and if he didn't he would still be laying on the field.

    March 27, 2012 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lovey

    God allows bad things to happen to all people. It is not "if" something bad is going to happen to you but when. Life happens. It is how you choose to over come your trial that shows who you are. It is how we choose to over come that makes us "believers" or not. God did allow this guy to come back to life. He has a purpose and a plan, just like you. We all have a plan for our lives.

    March 27, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jay

    Go Spurs

    March 27, 2012 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. cbr

    Probably not. Just as we do not get the same care as VP Cheney, members of the House and Senate, other big name athletes. You name them and we certainly do not get the same care nor do we always have the same options for care. Our insurance will only pay for certain procedures, so many hours of therapy, so many days in the hospital or in rehab. If the Supreme Court turns down Affordable Health Care Act we will be shut out of many of the options for health care.

    March 27, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bob MD

    If this happened in the US and the guy ended up in a persistent vegetative state (like most people would after a 78-minute cardiac arrest) the family's lawyers would likely encourage them to sue for lifetime cost of care (i.e. millions) as well as "pain and suffering" (i.e. more millions). They would have no problems producing expert witnesses stating that 78 minutes of CPR was not "standard of care." And the family would probably get a nice out-of-court settlement.

    March 28, 2012 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Enjeha

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    April 8, 2012 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 3, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Temeka Zeleny

    The chances of going pro or making soccer your career are going to improve if you are realistic and follow the advice of others who are currently playing professionally. For example, to be a top performer in anything, practice, practice and more practice is necessary. No matter how skilled you may be, an athlete must practice to become consistent with their skills and technical abilities.Second, you must understand what the world of professional soccer looks like so that you can determine where to start, in getting discovered or how the process works.,

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.