Purtell recalls heart attack scare
Bradford Bulls centre Adrian Purtell today relived the moment he thought he was going to die as he set a date for his comeback.
The 28-year-old Australian has not played since suffering a heart attack in the aftermath of Bradford’s Magic Weekend defeat by Leeds Rhinos at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium on May 27.
It happened two months after footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur.
“It was scary when they first told me - and I was there by myself,” Purtell recalled.
“At that point I didn’t know anything about the situation and thought ‘am I doing to die?’”
Purtell spent three days in hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery, and went through a series of MRI scans over the following months.
However, unlike Muamba, who was forced to retire, Purtell was given the all-clear in November to resume his career and has set his sights on returning to action before the end of next month.
In the meantime, he has pledged to help other heart attack victims and was today unveiled as Yorkshire’s first ambassador for Heart Research UK at a press conference at Odsal’s Provident Stadium.
“This is a special one for me because I know at first hand what needs to be done in those scary situations,” he said.
Purtell, who has made just eight Super League appearances, intends to see out the remaining two years of his contract with the Bulls and, after retaining the number four shirt, believes he is within six weeks of making his return.
He resumed training three months ago but cannot do full contact work until he comes off his blood-thinning medication.
“I’ve got an appointment in London on the 13th of March and I’m hoping that maybe two weeks after that I should be back playing,” Purtell said.
“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt, fitness and strength wise. Our conditioner has been pushing me really hard and I feel really good about where my body is.”
Bradford coach Francis Cummins admits the return of the former Canberra and Penrith player would be a boost for the club, especially after losing Michael Platt for 12 weeks with a knee injury, but is treading carefully.
“It would be like a new signing,” Cummins said.
“If you’d have asked me when he had his heart attack, I would have said there is no way he can come back and play rugby league.
“It would be a great first. The top guys in London say he’s beating all the footballers on the test they do. They had to stop him, he did that well.
“To be fair, I remember being sat around his bed and him talking about options and he was pretty headstrong that he would play again.
“I’m desperate for numbers and obviously with Michael Platt being injured, he’d be more important for us but it would be just huge any way.
“Obviously he’s on blood thinners at the moment so he can’t do any contact. Once he starts to bleed, it doesn’t really stop so we’re having to wrap him in cotton wool, although he keeps throwing himself in, sliding into contact, we have to drag him back out.
“It’s like the kids at home, he doesn’t listen to me either.”
With no reserve side, Cummins would like Purtell to make his comeback with partner club Dewsbury, just as second rower James Donaldson has done, but the move needs the approval of the UK Border Agency because of visa issues and that could mean another lengthy delay.
Purtell himself insists he is capable of going straight back into Super League action.
“I’m not too sure what’s going to happen,” he said.
“If I had to go straight into a Super League game then I think I would.
“At the end of the day Franny picks the team and if he wants me to play at Dewsbury I’ll play at Dewsbury.
“I know physically that I’d be alright to play here at Bradford if that was the case because I’ve been training hard for four months now.
“Fitness and strength-wise I think I’d be okay but at the end of the day I’ll play wherever I’m picked to play and look forward to it.”