23 for ’23: Damar Hamlin’s Moment Is More Than Just Happenstance
Two weeks have passed since Damar Hamlin is currently on the phone from Buffalo. During this time, he has experienced every human feeling, with each day being both exactly what he desired and not nearly enough. Specifically, he is talking about the words that he wrote when he shared a video of himself that was uploaded to X (the platform that was formerly known as Twitter) on November 5 to debate it. A portion of what it said was that you all don’t know the half of it.
Before the Buffalo Bills Week 9 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the safety for the Bills is seen in the video walking onto the field at Paycor Stadium by himself. Near the middle of the field, he stops. Reduces to knees. Seems to be intently contemplating something. Take a picture of themselves. …and then walks away.
According to him, the film is unable to convey the emotions that he is experiencing on the inside. What it takes to do what I’m doing right now. The steps that must be taken to return to something capable of causing immediate death.
As Hamlin continues, some individuals touch a stove that is lit, become aware of how hot it is, and then stop doing it. However, he is not merely touching the NFL equivalent of a blazing stove; rather, he is placing his hand on that spot-on purpose over several months. “To return to something that stopped my heart and, you know, killed me, man. I [looked] death in the face,” the speaker said. I had to confront death.”
Short pause here. Through the grace of God, I was able to make it through.
Because Hamlin was able to live, the sign of a heart, which is created by putting two hands together, became his way of demonstrating his tenacity. The events that took place in January on the same field in Cincinnati, however, are not the only thing that he does not wish to be defined around. Rather than that, he directs his attention forward.
“To be able to still be who I was even before what happened, that is the journey, the day in and day out of having to realize my reality of what happened to me—and still trying to chase this dream…. to show strength through all the situations where we might not want to, where that might not be the first emotion that you want to express,” she said. “That is the journey.”
“There is no way that it is simple,” he explains. “It is not even close to being as simple as I estimated it would be. It is quite challenging. Incredibly difficult to do so.”
Hamlin is not moaning or pleading for pity; all he is doing is being truthful. This is not who he is at all. Instead, he is working to assist other people by advocating for donations, raising awareness, and bringing about change.
There has been no change in Damar Hamlin, not even after January 2nd.
The emergency response team at Paycor Stadium has been fortunate enough to have John Bush Jr. on board as a respiratory therapist since the year 2018. Even though he had played for nearly five complete seasons, he had never been required to take the field. Hamlin did not fall and his heart stopped beating until January 2, nine minutes into a game in which the Bengals were leading 7–3. At that time, the Bengals were leading the game.
What followed was described by Bush as “like a dream,” in which he saw himself from above, similar to the experience of watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which he serves as a main character. His team, along with the medical staff of the Bills, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and attached an automated external defibrillator (AED). The loading of Hamlin onto an ambulance took place after 19 minutes had passed. The event that took place would subsequently be identified as commotio cordis, which is a condition that occurs when a hit to the chest causes the heart to have an irregular rhythm, which ultimately results in cardiac arrest.
For the purpose of expressing gratitude to Bush and the other first responders, Commissioner Roger Goodell would phone him. The on-field reactions that night, however, were the ones that stood out the most. Hamlin was treated with an unending amount of respect and affection by both the players and the coaches. Bush adds, “They were calling out to him, encouraging him, and telling him to stay strong until the end of the day.” It’s both sides. Simply put, it had a different sensation. Taking a look at their expressions reveals feelings of sympathy, hurt, and confusion. They were overcome with grief. Because their hearts were with him, there is no way that they could have finished the game under any circumstances.
Both Bush and Hamlin remained in the ambulance together. He already thought of Hamlin as a member of the family prior to seeing him. All three of Bush’s children are now adults: one boy and one daughter. The words “I’m going to get you home to your mom” were muttered by him as he leaned in closer.
When Hamlin awoke the following day, some sixteen hours after he had fainted, he scribbled down three lines that have since become legendary. These words summed up the man who had come dangerously close to death and the mindset that he carried forward: “Did we win?”
That afternoon, Bush, who had been to visit Hamlin in the hospital, drew his attention due to his presence. No one spoke a single word. Both of them repeated the same motion, tapping their chests with their fists.
Is it a miracle? Bush is occasionally perplexed. As he puts it, “We witnessed him in his most vulnerable state.” Since that night, Bush and the other first responders have had regular reunions with Hamlin. One of these reunions took place at the ESPYs, where Hamlin presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the first responders in recognition of their service. Additionally, they encountered him in November, when Buffalo made his way back to Cincinnati. “His smile was as bright as platinum,” adds Bush. Just the fact that he is still alive is nothing short of indescribable.
Damar Hamlin had the desire to make a difference in the world long before his heart stopped beating. It is the consensus of friends, confidants, and coaches. Hamlin, who is now 25 years old, spent his childhood in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. On the “Total Crime Index” of Neighborhood Scout, it receives a score of one out of one hundred, which indicates that it is safer than only one percent of all communities in the United States. Hamlin’s mental fortitude and his determination were strengthened there, and he was able to attend Central Catholic, a private school, thanks to a scholarship that his family provided. The local hero Darrelle Revis was someone he looked up to, and he had the ambition to build his own island. As a result of his determination to never be considered someone who squandered even a fraction of their potential, he was awarded the title of state defensive player of the year during his senior year.
at spite of this, Hamlin had a desire of having a more widespread impact—at The Rocks, in Pittsburgh, for children who were growing up in a landscape of examples that he defines as “what not to do.” He desired to become an example to others, the kind of person he had never been.
As a four-star recruit, he chose to enroll at Pittsburgh in 2016, despite receiving interest from prestigious schools such as Ohio State and Penn State universities. In the year 2018, he was the starting quarterback and the focal point of a top-tier defensive backfield. In his senior year, he was selected for the second team of All-ACC and was given the title of captain.
The Buffalo Bills selected Hamlin in the sixth round of the draft in the year 2021. Already, he had established a benevolent organization and had gotten deeply involved in community service, working with children and providing them with professional guidance.
His Chasing M’s Foundation, which was established in May of 2021, is committed to the promotion of young development and health and safety, especially through the medium of sports. Hamlin has held free football camps for local teenagers in the Pittsburgh area throughout every summer, with the exception of the summer before his rookie season and the summer that occurred during the pandemic.
His impact has only broadened over the past 11 frenetic months. Some of it was indirect, like the attention he generated toward AEDs, which skyrocketed in demand. Schools and youth organizations ordered them in such droves that there is now a shortage; the industry calls it “The Damar Effect.”
More directly, Chasing M’s held a CPR tour this past offseason in partnership with the American Heart Association, moving from Buffalo to Pittsburgh to Cincinnati to conduct free CPR training and provide no-cost AEDs to youth sports organizations in those cities. In March, Hamlin spoke at a Capitol Hill event introducing the Access to AEDs Act, filed in the U.S. House of Representatives. UC Medical Center in Cincinnati, where he was taken that January night, also expanded its training programs for CPR and AEDs.
And there was the toy drive GoFundMe he had started, which before that night in Cincinnati had some $3,000 in donations. Suddenly, there was more than $9 million, from more than 22,000 individuals, that he would use to support his charitable work.