James Taylor casts his mind back to his own Christian Eriksen moment and reflects on how he rebuilt a life so nearly snatched from him in the same way.
‘It’s going to be an incredibly emotional time for him and he’ll have so many questions,’ said the England cricketer, who almost died through a serious heart condition.
‘The one thing I’d say from what I’ve learnt is you can’t control what’s going on physically but you can control what’s going on upstairs. It’s one thing battling with your body but don’t battle with yourself mentally and bottle things up.
Ex-England cricketer James Taylor (above) opens up on how his life was almost snatched away
‘I chose to be open with people around me. I shared every feeling I had with my wife, so if I pulled a face she immediately knew what was going on inside me. If I could talk to Christian Eriksen now I’d say just try to be honest about how you’re feeling.
‘And realise how incredibly lucky you are because it could have been very different. Yes, his world is upside down right now but life itself is a great option. And he’s got that.’
Taylor is one of the few qualified to offer advice to the Danish footballer, who suffered cardiac arrest during a match against Finland at the Euros.
It happened to him, too, five years ago in pre-season training with Nottinghamshire at Cambridge just after he had finally established himself, at 26, in the England Test team.
Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s Euro 2020 game against Finland
Eriksen (pictured) has had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator fitted, just like Taylor has
What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator?
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator is a small device which can treat people with dangerously abnormal heart rhythms.
It sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms, specifically those that can be dangerous and cause a cardiac arrest.
If an ICD notices a dangerous heart rhythm it can deliver one or more of the following treatments:
Pacing – a series of low-voltage electrical impulses (paced beats) at a fast rate to try and correct the heart rhythm.
Cardioversion – one or more small electric shocks to try and restore the heart to a normal rhythm.
Defibrillation – one or more larger electric shocks to try and restore the heart to a normal rhythm.
‘I wasn’t watching the match when Christian collapsed but I soon found out about it because my phone went mental,’ said Taylor, now, at 31, England’s head scout. ‘So many people got in touch and that was lovely they thought about me.
‘It brings back a lot of memories but every one of these cases is different. I don’t know exactly what Eriksen has but I imagine it is something similar to me and every time I see something like this I realise how lucky I was because 80 per cent of ARVC cases (a disease of the heart muscle) are only discovered in post-mortems.
‘I should have died. The cardiologists had never seen anyone present what I did so I was incredibly lucky. Just as Christian is. And it does put things in perspective. It allows me, weirdly, to enjoy things a bit more.’
Taylor is certainly an example of how a sportsman at the top of his game can recover after losing everything he had worked so hard to achieve. He, too, was fitted with the heart-starting device that Eriksen has just had.
‘It’s like half the size of a mobile phone and has two wires screwed into the bottom of my heart,’ Taylor tells Sportsmail. ‘It’s quite brutal when you spell it out.
‘I didn’t want it at first and tried my hardest not to have the operation. But it’s brilliant. It has gone off twice and saved my life once. It just keeps me in check if the s*** hits the fan.
‘I would say I live a pretty normal life apart from not being able to exercise like I’d want to. There are those little day to day things. Like every time I cross the road I think twice because I don’t want to move too fast. Every time I jog up the stairs I wonder how I’ll be when I get to the top. Every time I lie on my left side I quickly have to switch to my right because I can feel every heart beat.
‘I don’t drink coffee or do anything that will raise my heart-rate. I’m pretty chilled but I do have to think about everything. And having the defibrillator does mean I’ll have to have major heart surgery every seven to 10 years. The more the beeping goes off the quicker I have to have it changed. I’ll have to have that operation continuously for the rest of my life.’
Not that Taylor feels sorry for himself. The key to his recovery to the point where he is a major figure in the England cricket hierarchy and lives happily with wife Josie in Nottingham has been that he has never said ‘why me’?
Eriksen gave a thumbs up on Instagram in hospital after his cardiac arrest, and was discharged
‘My life has changed dramatically since being a professional cricketer,’ he says. ‘I stopped doing something I loved and it’s all I’d worked for, all I knew.
‘Playing cricket in front of thousands of people, being in the gym working hard. And when that’s taken away from you, it’s the biggest ego dent, that’s how I’d describe it. You have to get your head around that and that was the hardest thing I had to do.
‘You’re not invincible any more and you’re not a sports star any more. Not in an arrogant way. It’s just that it’s what you’ve worked so hard for, to get to the top of your field. And I’d just got there. Then the carpet was whipped from under my feet.
‘But what I’ve been most proud of over the last five years is that mentally I’ve been in a good place. I haven’t had many down moments. Literally 99 per cent of the time I’ve been all right. And I’m in a good enough mental space to realise what I’ve got. And that’s a good life.’
And Taylor has found a sporting alternative to cricket. He has taken up golf in his forced retirement and so good has he become he is better than scratch.
‘That has changed my life,’ he says. ‘It sounds a bit cringey saying that but when I was in that hospital bed being told my life, as it was, was over and “you can’t do this” and “you can’t do that” I had no outlets or releases.
Taylor was forced to retire from cricket after discovering his serious heart condition
The 31-year-old will have to have major heart surgery every seven to 10 years as a result
‘But golf gave me a release and got me outside. It gave me exercise because I can’t do much. The walking around the course is brilliant. And it gave me the physical and mental challenge of trying to put a score together on the course or competing against someone.
‘My condition doesn’t allow me to be competitive because your adrenalin flows and your heart-rate rises. With golf you’re at a lower level with your heart-rate. It’s been massive for me.’
Now Taylor wants to see measures in place to make sure others have the same medical treatment that saved him and Eriksen.
‘We need to raise awareness over just how important defibrillators are in society and how important it is to have them readily available. Christian was incredibly fortunate to have such a good medical team there next to him on the pitch.
‘Had that been anybody else playing club football or another sport in any other part of the world, they probably would not have made it. Also, they used a defib on him. That’s a vital piece of technology that should be readily available in all walks of life.’
Cricket still plays a huge part in Taylor’s life. He was a selector working with Ed Smith and retained an important role in the selectorial reshuffle that saw Smith leave.
Taylor tells Sportsmail that he wants to see measures in place to make sure others have the same medical treatment that saved him and Eriksen
‘I watch a hell of a lot of cricket,’ he says. ‘The miles I’m doing on the motorway are obscene. But it’s brilliant and I’m lucky to do a job I love. I can also have a positive impact because it’s something I know incredibly well.’
But what happened to him when he was at the peak of his powers and had just returned home from a successful tour of South Africa, where he scored a hundred in what turned out to be his last ever match, is never far away.
‘It might sound cheesy but every time I say goodbye to my wife I make sure it’s a nice one because of what’s happened,’ he adds. ‘Anybody who has had their life interrupted by something thinks more about certain things. But I’ve got life. And so has Christian Eriksen. That’s what matters.’
James Taylor tells his full emotional story in his autobiography, Cut Short.