BY THE MIDNIGHT MAN
Every morning when I wake, there are three websites I routinely check: ESPN, CNN and the Drudge Report. Yet when I woke this past Sunday morning, my browsing session ended abruptly after coming across a disturbing headline: Fabrice Muamba, the promising young Bolton and English holding midfielder, had collapsed during his team’s FA Cup match versus Tottenham.
Normally I gloss over such heartbreaking articles, spending no more than a few minutes digesting the meaning of the event. But for no particular reason, Muamba’s tragic collapse resonated with me. Maybe it is the shock of a perfectly fit 23-year-old going into cardiac arrest. Maybe it is the realization that for everyone, each breath could be your last. Or maybe it is the fact that to me, people who have overcome so many obstacles, like Muamba, deserve better. But for whatever reason, Muamba’s collapse resonated with me.
Growing up in war-torn Zaire, he emigrated from his country to England in 1999. After joining Arsenal Football Club’s famed Youth Academy in 2002, he rose to the professional ranks by 2005. Following a successful loan spell at Birmingham City in 2006, Muamba secured a permanent deal in 2007. After Birmingham was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2007 season, he transferred to his current team, the Bolton Wanderers, where he has been a keg cog in the center of midfield since 2008. Combining a mix of speed and superb tackling ability, Muamba’s energetic style of play allowed him to be recognized as one of England’s top young players. To this date, he has more than 33 appearances for the England U-21 side and likely was going to take part in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London.
But his off-the-field successes are more important than his on-the-field accomplishments. Like many immigrants, Muamba was unable to speak English upon his arrival in East London. Yet Muamba overcame the language barrier to achieve academic excellence in his teen years. He became a father to a son three years ago, and this Valentine’s Day became engaged to the child’s mother. Muamba had his whole life ahead of him and yet, during the 41st minute of Saturday’s match, it was all almost unfairly taken away.
Watching a clip of the incident on YouTube, one does not actually see Muamba fall as he went into cardiac arrest. Rather, you see the distraught faces of everyone at White Hart Lane, including his fellow players, many of whom walked off the pitch with tears in their eyes. But thankfully, due to the amazing work of the Bolton and Tottenham medical staff as well as the staff at London’s Chest Hospital, Muamba’s heart miraculously restarted. He is currently off the ventilator, breathing on his own and is beginning to speak softly and show signs of movement in his limbs.
Now, I need to be frank. The goal of this article isn’t to preach to its readers that you need to drastically change your life to become a healthier person who eats right and exercises frequently. While recommended by physicians everywhere, that lifestyle is not for everyone. And as Muamba’s collapse demonstrates, even the fittest athletes are vulnerable to sudden heart attacks.
Rather, my hope is that this brief attempt at telling Fabrice Muamba’s story allows you to take a moment out of your day and put your life into perspective. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s tragedies like Muamba’s that make such a statement significant.
So I ask that you each ask yourself what’s important, who’s important and what you want or need to accomplish that you haven’t already. Whether it’s forgiving someone, going skydiving, or conquering D’Jais Happy Hour, do what you feel is right and don’t look back. You only get one shot in this world, and like Fabrice Muamba already has, you better make it count.
And Fabrice, in the words of the late Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” The world, your son, and your fiancée need you. God Bless and we pray for a speedy and healthy recovery.