By Chris Wright
Back in July of 2013, Stuttgart Kickers striker Daniel Engelbrecht collapsed on the pitch during a game against Rot-Weiss Erfurt in the German third division and had to be given emergency resuscitation to keep him alive.
Having been rushed to hospital, a subsequent medical examination showed the 24-year-old had been suffering from an inflamed heart muscle as well as an abnormal heart rhythm.
A little over 16 months on down the line and Engelbrecht has made a full return to the game, thanks largely to an automatic defibrillator implanted into his chest.
The fitting of the defib unit (which is inserted just under the skin and is used to monitor the pulse and administer restorative electric shocks if required) required four separate surgeries, which Engelbrecht underwent last December.
Come the 76th minute of Saturday’s regional cup tie against FV Ravensburg, an emotional Engelbrecht emerged from the Stuttgart dugout for the first time in over a year, coming on for the last 14 minutes of the game – a 1-0 defeat, not that the result mattered much to the man of the moment.
“Before the match, the fear was back, of course. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of it,” Engelbrecht told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
“But being able to be on the pitch in another professional match is an indescribable feeling. It was a really big step for me.
“I am lucky to be still alive. Others in a similar situation have died.
“After the diagnosis no one really believed that I’d ever be able to make a comeback. That makes it ever nicer that I’m able to say that I’m back.”
Unsurprisingly, the young striker has had a rough old time of it over the last year or so.
“The last year was the worst in my life,” he added.
“I wasn’t allowed to do anything, no sport, no strain – certainly no stress. I had to live the life of an 80-year-old.
“Because of the drugs I was constantly tired, yet I couldn’t sleep properly at night.
“There were phases when I had to take so many tablets that I suffered from hallucinations.
“When I woke up at night, I saw people walking through my room or sitting down beside my bed. It got so bad that I could no longer sleep on my own.”
Engelbrecht also admitted several of his doctors advised him against returning to football, but that retiring from the game he loves so dearly was never going to be an option.
“I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t tried.
“I’ve set myself this goal and given everything to get there.”
Best of luck to him.
(Via Inside World Soccer)