The hospital treating Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba last night confirmed the player can now recognise family members and respond to their questions.
Forty-eight hours after he collapsed during an FA Cup quarter-final tie against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, where he suffered a cardiac arrest, it was the clearest indication yet that Muamba is winning his battle for life.
“Fabrice Muamba remains in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital and is continuing to show signs of improvement this evening,” said the joint statement released by the London Chest Hospital and Bolton.
“He is now able to breathe independently, without the aid of a ventilator, and he is able to recognise family members and respond to questions appropriately. These are positive signs of progress.
“However, his condition remains serious and our medical staff in intensive care will continue to monitor and treat him.
“His family and club would like to thank the media for continuing to respect their privacy at this time.”
The confirmation follows claims from Curtis Codrington, who says he is a friend of Muamba and is one of only 83 people followed by the player on social networking site Twitter, that he had started speaking in French and English.
Bolton sources have revealed the 23-year-old has made considerable progress and the signs are looking extremely positive for the player.
However, they are cautioning against over-optimism, pointing out that it is not unknown for patients to plateau at this stage and that Muamba remains wired up and is still officially on the critical list.
Nevertheless, the latest updates are more than Bolton’s anxious players, staff and supporters dared hope as medics battled for two hours to get Muamba’s heart beating again after it stopped at White Hart Lane.
The player’s fiancee, Shauna Muamba, wrote on Twitter: “All your prayers are working people thank u so so much. Every prayer makes him stronger. To God be the glory.”
Earlier, speaking for the first time since the game, Bolton captain Kevin Davies said Muamba owed his life to the medical support he received almost instantly.
“There is no doubt in my mind if it wasn’t down to all those people, we wouldn’t even be in this situation,” said Davies.
Bolton have not confirmed how long manager Owen Coyle intends to maintain his own vigil for the player, although he is expected to remain in the capital for a further two days. That would throw into question Bolton’s ability to fulfil Saturday’s scheduled Premier League game with Blackburn at the Reebok Stadium.
The Lancashire derby may go a long way to determining whether Bolton will remain in the Premier League this season.
It is understood there is enough flexibility within the fixture schedule for that game to be postponed, although the rescheduled FA Cup tie with Tottenham would take precedence in any rearrangement and that would normally take place at some point next week.
However, that game is far from Coyle’s mind at the moment.
“We are all after the same objective; to see that lovely young man, who has such a fantastic smile. That’s what we want to see again,” said the Scot.
“When you look through what he’s come through in his life already, he’s a natural fighter.”
Meanwhile, the entire Tottenham squad have requested heart checks following Muamba’s collapse, a cardiologist has revealed.
A number of Spurs players were visibly distressed at the 23-year-old’s collapse and they have requested that they be checked to see if they have any long-term heart defects.
“The players have all demanded cardiac screening today,” sports cardiologist Sanjay Sharma said.
“That involves taking a history relating to cardiac symptoms, which include chest pain during exertion or breath which is disproportionate to the amount of exercise being performed and blackouts, (and) asking about a family history because many of these conditions that can cause cardiac arrest are hereditary.
“We then perform a cardiac examination and following that we do an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is an electrical tracing of the heart which looks for electric faults of the heart, and a cardiac ultrasound which looks at heart muscle problems or problems with the heart values.”
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp backed the move, saying: “Fortunately, we already had a cardiologist visiting the training ground today for routine screening, so we are able to offer any player who wishes to be tested for the purpose of reassurance an additional opportunity to be screened.”
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