Bradford Bulls star Adrian Purtell was yesterday unveiled as an ambassador for West Yorkshire-based charity Heart Research UK as he closes in on a long-awaited return to action.
The Australian centre has not played for the Super League club since suffering a heart attack in the aftermath of the Magic Weekend defeat to Leeds at the Etihad Stadium on May 27 last year.
Mr Purtell, who played the full 80 minutes of the energy-sapping 37-22 defeat in searing heat, initially complained of feeling unwell shortly after the game and began to suffer chest pains.
As his condition worsened during the journey back to Bradford, the club’s medical staff gave him oxygen and put him on a drip before diverting the team coach to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
The former Penrith Panthers player was transferred to the coronary-care unit at Leeds General Infirmary later that evening, where he underwent an immediate primary angioplasty to remove a blockage in his artery.
Mr Purtell was told in December he could resume his playing career as, despite some slight scarring, a series of tests showed his heart was functioning normally.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to be actively involved in Heart Research UK,” said Mr Purtell.
“The organisation is massive in trying to prevent, treat and cure heart disease. A huge thing for me was when I went to the LGI and had the angioplasty.
“It was a massive operation and as soon as I had that I felt not 100 per cent but certainly well on the road to recovery.”
Mr Purtell had a deep-vein thrombosis five years earlier but medics did not believe that had been a factor in his heart attack.
His cholesterol levels were also normal and so it was believed the baking temperatures on the day of the game were a contributory factor.
Mr Purtell, whose ambassadorial role will see him promote the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle, is on medication to thin his blood before a scheduled return to action, possibly next month.
He added: “I’ve got an appointment with the specialist in London on March 13.
“I’m hoping I’ll get the go-ahead to stop taking the medication. After that I should be back playing.”
Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK, said: “Having a heart attack doesn’t have to be the end of the world as you know it.
“It can be the thing that makes you live a healthier lifestyle and get back on your feet to be as good as you were before – or better.”
Mr Purtell’s visa as an overseas quota player does not allow him to play for any other club than Bradford but is it hoped he may be given dispensation to play for the Bulls’ partnership club, Dewsbury Rams, to build up his fitness.
Bulls coach Francis Cummins said: “Having Adrian available again would be like a new signing.
“I want him to play a bit of a game for Dewsbury at a lower standard because it would be a massive thing to throw him straight back into a Super League game.”