Spanish FIFA assistant referee Juan Carlos Yuste Jimenez, who has been in the First Division for more than two decades, has recovered from two blood clots in the lungs and, months later, returned to the field. "If I would have boarded the airplane for the Switzerland-Italy match, I would have died, 99%, due to the pressure difference and with the blood clots in my lungs." At least that's what the doctors told him. "I can only thank life for this new opportunity it gives me," he says... and the phrase is accompanied by a smile. The assistant referee, with 23 seasons in the First Division and a few continental finals, put an end to months of a nightmare that could cost him dearly. A phone call to a friend, Esther Megia Davila, was key to clinging to life.
Juanqui recalls the days passed from the Euro final, in which he was a reserve AR (June 12) until the game at the Camp Nou (November 20). After returning to Spain from the Euro, the assistant underwent an analysis that is done every year on a personal level: the result seemed within normality. On June 19, he got the first dose of the covid vaccine and went on vacation. On July 30 he did the mandatory medical examination of the CTA to start the season. In this analysis he had been told that the D-Dimer parameters (test to find out if you have a blood clotting disorder) were somewhat elevated. On August 8, he passed the fitness tests without any problems and the next day he received the second dose of the Covid vaccine.
Shortness of breath
“On August 15, when I was training, I felt like I was short of breath," explains Juanqui, who did not give it too much importance and days later was on the Granada-Valencia match on the first day of the League: "During the match I did not feel comfortable, but I thought it was because of how hot it was." But his concern increased a day later: "I had to give three talks to the Madrid referees and I felt drowned. Playing the videos gave me chance to breathe and continue." That Sunday night "I got pissed off and went to the emergency room. They diagnosed me with bronchitis and they gave me an antibiotic for three days. I took my medication and traveled to Denmark for a Champions League qualifying match. The match went well, but I couldn't find myself to 100%". Yuste Jimenez continued to train, but the lack of air continued: "When running, when talking, when climbing stairs... I felt bad physically". On September 4, I had to travel, along with Del Cerro Grande, for the match Switzerland-Italy: "I called Megia Davila's sister, who works at the El Bosque Clinic, to see if I had to take a second dose of antibiotics to be well at all." On September 2, he went to the clinic and the doctors asked him the symptoms: "I told them about the bronchitis and if I need a second dose of medicine, but they referred me to the Beata Maria Ana Hospital, where they subjected me to some tests. They told me that in an hour they would give me the results, so I was walking around the hospital until I heard my name and I went to get the results. The doctor was looking concerned and told me that they had to do a CT scan of the lung, since the D-Dimer was 7,760 [the normal must be below 500] ". They immediately put him down and forbade him to move: "They didn't even let me go to the bathroom." The instructions were clear: "You cannot move out of bed." Juanqui did not understand anything: "If five minutes ago I was walking and now they take me in a wheelchair to the room and without making any effort."
Blood clots in both lungs
He underwent a CT scan and the result was a scattered thrombus in both lungs. A pulmonary thromboembolism... and it was not ruled out that the heart was affected: "You cannot move, because if the thrombi go to the head or heart we have a more serious problem." They also told him that there are people who, due to genetic factors, may be more prone to creating blood clots. "This must have been my case." They used heparin... "I was not aware of the seriousness of what was happening. I saw the faces of Doctors Pelaez and Cruxat... and they told me what was happening, but I was fine, it didn't hurt at all". 48 hours in the ICU was his next destination. When he entered in a wheelchair, he saw the nurses and told them: "Here is your new tenant, I hope I don't give you the ember." The nurse was clear: "He told me that you could not believe the humor he had with the seriousness of what you have in there." Juanqui suspects that "it will be the only time that I will be in a hospital and that nothing hurts. I was fine, I just lacked a little air." They placed him in front of the doctors' station and every 30 minutes they checked his tension and oxygen saturation... "I was calm."
Two calls: to Del Cerro Grande and his sister
They did not take away his cell phone and it gave him wings. Made two calls. The first to Del Cerro "to tell him to find another assistant, because I had to be in the ICU for 48 hours." The second to his sister "so that the family would know." And he always said the same thing: "I came to get a prescription and I stayed in the ICU." He asked his sister to bring his computer to work. "A nurse gave it to me, since no one could come to see me." Juanqui, in his WhatsApp groups, wrote that everything was fine, given the commotion that was formed with the information on social networks: "I was hallucinating, I did not understand anything. I had 20 cables, but I was without pain." He had only spoken with his referee, his sister, with the Megia family and with partner Perez Muley, who called him by chance.Yuste continued to encourage and reassure people and, meanwhile, Dimero D's parameters were dropping considerably (3,967). The heparin was working and the head of the ICU, to whom he is very grateful, came to see him. "You are reacting very well, the saturation of the lung is perfect and you have been lucky, since you have not infarcted the lung or the heart, although we are going to see with an Echo like this one," he said. Everything was fine and they brought him up to his room, unable to move, 24 hours ahead of schedule: "Two days there without taking a step. I almost had to beg to be able to go to the toilet." And all this, just: "Having a lung problem I was in the Covid section, where no one can visit you." Juanqui asked the doctors whether he could return, not for Sunday's game, but for the one 15 days later, but they were blunt: "His face was like saying that maybe I can't referee again. And I thought that I came for a prescription, and I can leave saying goodbye to football. Nobody told me when my return would be, or if I could return to refereeing, if I could travel by plane again in my life... In the end, they commented that I would have to wait between two and six months". The tests were improving and it was ruled out that he had blood clots in the legs and other parts of the body, with which he was able to take steps. Later he was able to go out to the street for a walk: "I couldn't complain. I was a privileged person, compared to other patients complaining of pain all night. It didn't hurt at all." Recovery was going fast and the doctors anticipated his discharge, but "no training, at most taking a daily walk."
The best call of his life
And all the doctors, seven in total, who had something to do with Juanqui in those months agree on one thing: "If I wouldn’t have made that call to Esther and go instead to Switzerland, 99% would have died on the plane. They said that I was lucky. A random, desperate call or, perhaps, someone from above gave me that idea to call and save my life. In the end, I was lucky not to catch that plane." To receive the total discharge "I had an abdominal Echo for the liver, kidney, lung, CT, several tests... After going through different tests and tubes everything came out OK: perfect organs and a clean lung". Then he had to go through the cardiologist: "Stress tests, three-dimensional Echo... and everything was fine." The end of the nightmare was close. "When all the tests went well, the doctors decided that he could return to normal, but little by little." First it was walking, then jogging, later it was running and finally "changes of pace, intervals... and, finally, total training". On November 18 he passed the fitness tests without problems and on November 20 he returned to the field. "I was excited packing my suitcase, because with the hustle and bustle we have: Cup, Champions, League, VAR... the truth is that out of seven days a week, you only sleep two at home for a few months, and I had been sleeping in my bed for months now. That's why preparing the suitcase gave me oxygen. Travel again, live the pre-game, go to the field, smell the grass, see the stadium, people in the stands and... you stand still and think: 'Juanqui, you've come back.' The return to the Camp Nou was very exciting: "The lump in the throat was present, for all that it entails. A few months ago I did not know if I was going to return, and in the end it was achieved." He had to close his eyes so as not to cry when the referees gave him a hug. "Many emotions came together. The hug at the beginning, the VAR teammates cheering me on...", recalls an excited Juanqui, who now cannot hold back the tears. At the end of 90 minutes the feelings were good. "I have returned and I felt like never before. I enjoyed it to the fullest, since, after living such an experience, you don't know when your last game might be." And, yes, Juanqui, although he was responding to all the messages, he wants to "thank all the expressions of affection received throughout these months, both to people and to institutions. I felt protected and loved with their messages."