No one knew about Damar Hamlin until a few weeks ago when the Buffalo Bills played against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2nd, 2023. It was during a textbook tackle and a textbook play that everything changed. Damar stood up after the tackle happened and everything seemed normal. Then suddenly he collapsed. He did not move for quite a long time and had to be resuscitated with CPR and a defibrillator before being taken to a local hospital for treatment.
What Damar Hamlin suffered was something called commotio cordis. This is what happens when a chest gets hit in such a certain way that the heart will start shaking. The heartbeat will become very erratic resulting in a cardiac arrest. It’s a very rare phenomenon but when it happens, it can be pretty lethal.
While Damar was being looked over, players from both teams were visibly shaken and upset, as well as the fans in attendance. This collapse happened live, in front of their eyes. This event happened live on television. If everyone at the stadium was upset, you could only imagine how football fans watching their TVs felt.
With Damar in critical condition and sedation at the hospital, the question remained as to whether the game would continue. It didn’t. It was too devasting to even continue that night let alone the next day. While later on, on January 22, 2023 a playoff game would happen between Cincinnati and Buffalo, at this point there was not point to even try. Everyone was waiting on the edge of their seats for updates on Damar’s condition. Thoughts, prayers and love came from everyone from other NFL players to celebrities to fans of both teams.
As the days went on, Damar’s condition got stronger. News reports came that he started talking to his family members, holding their hands, and he was coming back in ways that even his doctors did not expect. His family members were there every step of the way. Fans locally in the Cincinnati area sent gifts and cards wishing Damar well. He was no longer just a player from a rival team, he was now a player from everyone’s team. Fans near and far became his cheerleaders. It was an energy and vibe that no one could really explain, but we all knew we needed to pray and send some love and healing to the family.
On the day of the January 22 playoff game against the Bengals, Damar Hamlin was out of the hospital but he wasn’t playing on the field. He was on the sidelines hanging out with this team from the locker room to the field where they practiced. He gave them the boost that his own team needed as well as those fans that spotted him in a suite watching the game and waving to fans when the cameras found him. While Buffalo didn’t win the game that night, they did win some new fans. At this point of the loss, it wasn’t the game that was important, it was the the fact that Damar there with his team once again, even if he could not play this time.
On January 28, Damar released a video thanking everyone for their support. He talked about how everyone helped him and how grateful he was that he had the best care and the best fans possible. It was at least a 5 minute video. It was very heartful, humble and a great way to show the fans that he had pulled through the worst of it.
With the season now over for Buffalo and the Superbowl now upon us, we can all agree that Damar Hamlin is a miracle. For as young as he is and what he endured, he came through and fought strong. From his collapse to his recovery, it brought not only the NFL community together but everyone who has ever delt with a heart condition, health issues, or lost someone due to a collapse. It was as if this corner of the sports world took a deep breath for a moment, forgetting about rivalries, pettiness and those things that usually make news and headlines on ESPN.
You could say that sometimes it takes a story/incident like this can teach us a lesson. Perhaps its a wake up call. Maybe its a sign. Whatever it means for you, this story will be in the forever in our hearts and historical sports archives.
If you or someone you know has suffered from a heart condition or cardiac arrest, make sure you know the signs. Seek medical attention immediately. More importantly, gather the support, love and prayers of those family and friends who will be there with you every step of the way. If Damar Hamlin can have the strong faith and support to survive a health crises, he can also be an inspiration for us when we are fighting our own struggles.