‘He told me it was sad, but that I was lucky to be alive’ - City old boy seeks advice from Fabrice Muamba after major heart scare
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Former Norwich City defender Leon Barnett is looking to the future after a major heart scare forced him to retire.
Barnett was forced to quit earlier this season at Northampton Town after being diagnosed with myocarditis - a condition that produces scarring on the heart and saw his heart rate rise dangerously high.
The 33-year-old, who was part of the Canaries’ squad that won Championship promotion in 2011 and stayed up the following season in the Premier League, is now awaiting the results of one final test before he can plan the next stage of his life.
Barnett revealed he had spoken to former Bolton star Fabrice Muamba since calling it a day, who had to be revived during a game in 2012 after his heart stopped for 78 minutes.
“I rang Fabrice Muamba because he was the only one I knew who I could talk to about it. We played against each other a few times early in my career,” said Barnett, speaking to the Daily Express.
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“He told me it was sad, but that I was lucky to be alive. Now at least, because of him, football seems more aware of potential heart problems.
“When you are a professional footballer, you think you are untouchable. You have so many medicals and tests, you think there cannot be anything wrong. Looking back on it, I could have carried on insisting that everything was fine.
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“Luckily I told the physio and he was straight on it. Otherwise, this might be a very different story.”
Barnett complained of feeling unwell during Northampton’s League Cup tie against Wycombe in August.
“They diagnosed myocarditis – scarring on the heart,” said the former centre back. “The doctors said if it was on the top or the middle of the heart they could just burn it away with an operation.
“But mine is at the bottom – a sensitive part of the heart – so the next best thing is to have a defibrillator and pacemaker inserted.
“If ever my heart goes up towards 300 beats per minute again, the pacemaker will be given three chances to get it back to normal. If not, the defibrillator will instantly shock me.
“I do like to exercise, so I asked the doctors what the defibrillator feels like. They told me it was like a kick in the chest.
“It sounds a bit harsh, but I think I could handle that.”
Barnett has already got the coaching bug as he weighs up a second career in the game.
“When I retired I spoke to a lot of professionals who said the next best thing is coaching,” he said. “Luton invited me to come down for a session with the kids and at the end of it I said, ‘Is coaching always like this? I loved it.’
“I cannot tread on eggshells every single day. If I want to go for a run, I go for a run.
“It is not being selfish – I just cannot sit around. Not even on holiday – I’m never one for sunbathing.
“You can be wrapped in too much cotton wool. If I obeyed all the rules I would not be able to go within six metres of our induction hob in the kitchen.”