Jonathan Spector has paid tribute to West Ham United's medical staff and team-mate Matthew Upson after suffering a serious injury in the recent Premier League victory over Sunderland.
The United States international was out training with his team-mates in the sunshine at Chadwell Heath on Wednesday, but his outlook was slightly less bright a little over three weeks ago when he swallowed his tongue following a sickening clash of heads with Black Cats centre-back Tal Ben Haim during the Hammers' 2-0 win at the Boleyn Ground. Spector suffered concussion immediately, landing heavily on the turf and jarring his shoulder in the process.
With his tongue blocking his airway, Spector was unable to breathe but, thanks to the quick-thinking expertise of medical officer Ges Steinbergs, physio George Cooper and team-mate Upson, he was able to make a full and rapid recovery.
"I don't remember the incident itself. I went up for a header and there was a clash of heads with one of the Sunderland players," said the 23-year-old. "There was nothing in it, just two players going up for the ball and I came off a little bit worse than he did.
"I suffered concussion before I hit the ground and then I landed awkwardly and got a little bit of a shoulder problem from that on top of the concussion. I also swallowed my tongue as I bit my tongue on the impact. I wasn't getting any oxygen so I started getting a little bit of a fit. Ges and George the physio did a really good job and helped me get some oxygen into my lungs.
"They were not able to pull my tongue out again as I'd clenched my jaw so they ended up putting a tube through my nose and down my throat to help me get the oxygen that way. That was the best solution. I was fortunate that it happened here where we have qualified and good medical staff."
Steinbergs joined West Ham's No18 in the ambulance on the way to hospital, but things could have been far more serious if he had ripped the tube that enabled him to breathe out of his nose. Thankfully, the friendly voice of Upson helped to reassure and calm the defender.
The news of his recovery came as a relief not just to Spector and everyone associated with West Ham, but also his family members back in his home city of Chicago.
"I spent a night in the hospital just for observation. Once I started getting oxygen then everything was fine. Once I came to, I tried to rip everything off me but I wasn't really aware of my surroundings and I don't remember it. It was actually Matt Upson who came over and talked to me and calmed me down a little bit.
"My first memory is of being in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and of Ges being in it with me. They explained what had happened and from then on I was ok. My folks saw it on television and they were obviously concerned but Ges spoke to them when I was at the hospital and explained everything to them."
The American has suffered injury heartache in the past, missing the 2006 World Cup with a dislocated shoulder and last year's Beijing Olympic Games with a serious hip problem that required surgery and kept him out of action for six months.
Spector was back on the substitutes' bench for the visit of Chelsea to east London on Saturday and, despite not being called upon by manager Gianfranco Zola, he was clearly both relieved and delighted to be back to full fitness.
"It's been a difficult season what with getting injured at the end of last season and missing the first half with a hip problem. I was fit and getting back into the side and getting a run of games and then this happened. It's just a minor setback, though."