Are you prepared when life changes in a heartbeat?

This week our Director of Technology Per Warvås is providing his thoughts on the incident from last week where the professional footballer Fabrice...

March 29, 2012
Per Warvås

This week our Director of Technology Per Warvås is providing his thoughts on the incident from last week where the professional footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered from Cardiac Arrest . As a fanatic sportsman and soccer fan, Per took this very emotionally and is trying to highlight his thoughts on how we deal with serious incidents such as this.

Enjoy your reading. 
Göran Malmberg

On Saturday, March 17th 2012, professional football player Fabrice Muamba collapsed from cardiac arrest during a cup match in front of millions of TV viewers. It quickly became clear that the situation was serious when cardiac massage and defibrillation was being used on the pitch and the surrounding players showed signs of shock and fear.


Of course, our first thoughts go directly to Fabrice’s family and loved ones. Then I begin to reflect.  How could this happen to a world class athlete? And can one survive such a condition?

It can happen in literally a heartbeat, and it can happen to anyone regardless of visual fitness. We might have genetic hereditary defects, maybe we carry an infection we hardly notice and at the same time we might be pushing ourselves beyond our physical ability. Today we have excellent research in the area of cardiology and we can detect an increasing number of hereditary defects and infections before they make their critical presence felt. Yet, we still fail to prevent the majority of these fatal cases.

I was very surprised when I realized that some of the top flight football clubs, where the athletes are paid hundreds of thousands euro in salaries on a weekly basis, carry out only one proper ECG test per season. That might be about to change from now. Most of us “normal” people do little or no such voluntary tests today. Obviously, it has to do with the cost, but mostly with lack of awareness of the risks of not checking your heart condition.

Fortunately we can today recover from a heart failure incident without serious long-term harm. Specialist hospitals today show studies of radically improved survival rates from patients with infarction and cardiac arrest. However, studies prove that it is equally important that  immediate care is received before arriving in hospitals’ where  specialists can treat the patient.

Fabrice Muamba was therefore extremely fortunate by having received immediate attention at the football stadium, and then the absolute best care available at the hospital. There was an ambulance at the arena with all the regulated required technology and both teams’ doctors were very well trained in life threatening conditions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Less fortunate than Fabrice Muamba was former Olympic silver medalist Vigor Bovolenta who died after suffering a heart attack during an Italian fourth-tier match on Saturday. Bovolenta, who was to turn 38 in May, collapsed on the court during Volley Forli’s visit to Lube Macerata. He complained of dizziness and chest pains, reportedly telling team-mates: “Please help me, I’m falling”.  Attempts by medics to resuscitate Bovolenta failed and he was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

What if someone close to you collapsed in the same way? Would you know what to do? Would you know where the nearest defibrillator is located and would you know how to use it?

Most of us know where the nearest cash machine is in our hometowns, but we have often no idea where the nearest defibrillator is located. Is there enough support and training in your neighborhood or workplace to deal with this situation?

My feeling is (without any scientific evidence or research data) that very few people take regular courses in lifesaving skills. Moreover, there are few life saving tool-kits available clearly visible in public places and not enough  awareness given to this life saving opportunity in our daily surroundings.

It can happen to anyone, anytime, and everyone can save lives given the availability of the right tools and easily trained skills! Anyone of us can help our fellow human being in a heart attack situation, and give the hospitals a sporting chance to save lives.

Don’t forget to ask the responsible manager at your work place, school or activity center where the nearest defibrillator is located and make sure that you learn how to use it.

Per Warvås


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