A FORMER Premiership footballer who suffered a heart attack during a match has officially opened a new cardiac unit at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital.
Ex-Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba joined Davina Emmerson to cut the ribbon, marking the opening of the hospital’s new cardiac catheter laboratory and chest pain unit.
Mrs Emmerson attended yesterday’s official opening ceremony on behalf of the Thornley family, whose £700,000 legacy made the new unit possible.
Mr Muamba told the Mail in an exclusive interview at the hospital: “Burton now has this great facility and equipment. It’s fantastic.
“It is important we have as many facilities like this as possible and we also need to raise awareness of cardiac arrest.
“Facilities like this give us more chance to save lives.”
The new unit, which adjoins an existing cardiac ward, allows the hospital to conduct more complicated procedures for which patients would previously have been transported to Leicester or Stoke-on-Trent.
Senior consultant cardiologist Dr Howard Why, who has worked at the hospital for 17 years, said: “This is the final piece of our jigsaw. This means we can do top-to-tail cardiac treatment here in Burton.
“This facility allows us to consider doing complex pacemaker procedures on patients with dysfunctional hearts.”
The new facility also contains advanced heart scanners, exercise stress testing facilities and other diagnostic equipment.
Hospital chief executive Helen Ashley said in a speech to medical staff and civic dignitaries at the opening ceremony: “This really represents a landmark day for Burton hospital and the patients we serve in Burton, South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire.
“Even I at times doubted we would ever get this facility but we have overcome some fairly significant challenges to ensure we have our own cardiac catheter lab and chest pain unit.”
Len Milner, Mayor of East Staffordshire, told the Mail: “This new unit is absolutely superb. Instead of travelling to Leicester or Stoke, patients can now receive treatment locally. It’s going to save time and save lives.
“Anything like this has to be a good thing. This is a wonderful coup for Burton and Queen’s Hospital.”
It is hoped the new unit — which contains the laboratory, bedspace for six patients, plus a range of diagnostic facilities — will be used to carry out coronary balloon and stent treatment within a year from now, Dr Why said.
Mr Muamba, Mrs Emmerson and other dignitaries were shown round the unit once the ribbon had been cut.
Mr Muamba, 24, became a figure of national attention when he suffered a cardiac arrest while on pitch during an FA Cup quarter-final game against Tottenham last year. He was effectively dead for 78 minutes. His story prompted campaigns for better awareness of heart conditions.
He told the Mail: “I am physically fine now and glad to be able to spend time with my friends and family.”