Fabrice Muamba was "effectively dead" for 78 minutes after he suffered a heart attack on the soccer field last weekend, according to the doctor who treated him.
The Bolton Wanderers' club doctor Jonathan Tobin told BBC Sport on Wednesday that the mid-fielder was non-responsive after he collapsed during the team's FA Cup tie game against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane last Saturday.
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"It was 48 minutes when he collapsed to reaching the hospital and a further 30 minutes after that," Dr Tobin told BBC. "He was, in effect, dead at that time."
Tobin said he cried once Muamba had arrived at the London Chest Hospital and the gravity of the situation sank in, Reuters reported.
"We were fearing the worst and didn't think we would get the recovery we had," Dr Tobin told reporters. "It's incredible."
23-year-old Muamba suffered a certain type of cardiac arrest where the heart shows lots of electrical activity but no muscular activity, the doctor said, according to Agence France Presse. However, the athlete was unresponsive to the 15 shocks given to him by paramedics, according to AFP.
Dr Andrew Deaner, an off-duty cardiologist who was watching the game as a fan, was allowed onto the pitch to help resuscitate Muamba, CNN International reported.
Dr Deaner said that Muamba's ability to respond appropriately to questions and make jokes within five days of suffering such major heart trauma is highly unusual, according to CNN.
"If you're going to use the term miraculous, I guess it could be used here," Dr Deaner said.
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Doctors say it is still too early to determine if Muamba will be able to play soccer again, according to BBC.
"He has exceeded our expectations but this remains very early in what could be a very lengthy recovery period," said Dr Sam Mohiddin, the cardiologist now looking after Muamba, according to BBC. "Normal life is within the spectrum of possibility."