A familiar broad smile – many would say a miraculous one – spread across the face of Fabrice Muamba yesterday as he was discharged from hospital, 30 days after suffering a severe and very public heart attack from which many feared he could never recover.
It was a month ago today that the Bolton Wanderers midfielder fell to the ground during an FA Cup match at Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane, beginning a 78-minute period in which, it was later confirmed, he was effectively dead.
Yesterday the 24-year-old midfielder was pictured shaking hands with Dr Andrew Deaner, the cardiologist who ran on to the pitch from the stands to insist that Muamba be taken to the London Chest Hospital where he works, and Dr Sam Mohiddin, who has cared for him ever since.
It is not yet clear if Muamba, who began his career at Arsenal, will be able to play professional football again, but judging by the remarkable extent and speed of his recovery, few would want to bet against the former England under-21 player doing so.
His luck was underlined again on Saturday, when the 25-year-old Italian footballer Piermario Morosini died after suffering a cardiac arrest in tragically similar circumstances while playing for Livorno.
Muamba, whose illness united football fans across the country, said: "I am naturally very pleased to be discharged from hospital and would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to every single member of staff at The London Chest Hospital who has played a part in my care.
"Their dedication, professionalism and expertise is simply amazing and I will forever be in their debt. I also wish to say thank you to all the many well-wishers who have sent thousands of messages of support. Now I am out of hospital, I am looking forward to continuing my recovery and spending precious time with my family."
His manager at Bolton, Owen Coyle, added: "It is absolutely fantastic news that Fabrice has been discharged from hospital and everyone at the club is delighted. We would also like to add our thanks to the staff at The London Chest Hospital for their care and treatment of Fabrice, which has been outstanding."
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