Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Damar Hamlin, 24, Still Alive After Collapsing on Monday Night Football (Update)

with 9 comments

Folks, a few days ago I wrote a post about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. He’s only twenty-four years old, a second-year pro football player in the NFL. He collapsed about three seconds after participating in a hard hit of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, and most cardiologists consulted on TV, Twitter, or elsewhere believe what happened is called commotio cordis. This occurs when at precisely the wrong time, someone gets hit directly over the heart when the rhythm is about to reset. (I am not a cardiologist, obviously, nor a doctor. I hope I’m stating this correctly, and any doctors in the audience may feel free to correct me. Or EMTs, paramedics, etc., who all know far more than I.) This causes cardiac arrest as the heart goes into ventricular fibrillation (also called v-fib).

Fortunately for Hamlin, he was given immediate CPR on the field, plus an AED — a type of automatic defibrillator — was used. This allowed him to survive and get to the hospital and gives him a fighting chance to survive this ordeal.

Surviving a few days after such a horrible thing means the chances of waking up and knowing yourself and your family, friends, teammates, etc., is far higher.

Damar Hamlin’s collapse and resuscitation feels personal to me, and not just because I’m a football fan. It’s because of how my husband Michael collapsed years ago. Michael fell backward the same way and survived only ten hours after having his first heart attack. He was in a coma after his second. He had two more heart attacks before he passed away, still at a young age, still with absolutely no explanation that made any sense to me. They put on his death certificate “acute myocardial infarction suspected,” along with the beginning of arteriosclerosis. That last part should not have been enough to kill him. (There was so much damage, I’ll never know what caused Michael’s four heart attacks.)

Michael went into v-fib for certain after the second heart attack. He was out for eighteen solid minutes before he revived. After the third, he was out for at least another ten minutes, and when he came back to life again and I was allowed to see him, I was told by the doctors and nurses that they’d never seen anything like the fight Michael was putting up for his life. They said he obviously had everything to live for, and they hoped he’d pull through.

He didn’t.

Anyway, I pray that Hamlin will continue to improve and that he’ll be able to wake up soon. At that point they can figure out what to do next, as there are a number of outcomes — some really good, such as no memory damage due to oxygen deprivation — and some that aren’t. I want Hamlin to fully recover, even if he never plays another down of pro football.

Some of you may wonder how Hamlin’s GoFundMe for Xmas toys is doing. It’s up now to over $7M in donations. (No misprint.) Famous sportsmen like Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay have donated, along with tons of other football players including the Bills’ next opponent, the New England Patriots. (As a side note, Russell Wilson, former quarterback at Wisconsin and now a member of the Denver Broncos, and his wife Ciara donated, along with Wilson’s foundation.). But the majority of the donations have been from regular people. They’ve donated $5, $10, $13, $23, $33, etc. (Hamlin’s number is 3), because they want to do something, anything, that’s positive.

If Hamlin can wake up and know himself, eventually he can administer all these funds and help needy kids the way they deserve to be helped.

That is my hope. Hamlin is a good man, who set up that GoFundMe before he even was drafted and is someone who’s tried hard to help others by from what everyone has said since he was in his teens (if not sooner). He deserves to wake up and make a full recovery if any of us do.

I also want people to lay off Tee Higgins, who did nothing wrong whatsoever. What happened was a freak accident. This could’ve happened to Hamlin on any football play, if the heart was at the wrong point of its cycle. Football is a tough, violent, hard-hitting sport, but this particular risk usually is miniscule. It had never happened before in NFL history, and I pray it never will again.

So, at this hour (1 a.m. Central Standard Time), I continue to pray for Hamlin, his family, his team, the Bengals (the opposing team), Higgins because he’s being unfairly blamed, and the entirety of the NFL. I also pray for those who, like me, have watched loved ones die from sudden heart attacks and could do nothing about it.

For those people in my situation, I urge you to do your best to remember that so long as you are alive, at least a part of your loved one is also alive. It isn’t enough. I know it’s not. But it’s something, and it may at least give you a way to go on.

9 Responses

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  1. A very moving post Barb.
    Both to your Michael and to Damar Hamlin. The suddenness of these situation is indeed frightening and there is, as you highlight that feeling of helplessness. Bless you sharing your own experiences, to know others have been there will be a help.
    There’s been commentary over here as well over the circumstances. This is an item from the BBC:
    Of course the Anti-Vaccination trolls have crawled out of their sewers on this subject.

    And as for Tee Higgins, the poor guy must feel terrible over this. It will be difficult for him to get back into his game. You are quite right though about another batch of trolls. It’s a contact sport for pity’s sake. Soccer has it’s own list of serious accidental injuries, some fatal.

    It is encouraging that the majority of people are reacting by doing something positive. That is so moving that folk are making donations with the number 3 in the sum.

    Take care of yourself and here’s hoping for Hamlin’s steady recovery (And Jeremy Renner’s- he was just being neighbourly at the time)


    January 5, 2023 at 4:03 am

    • Yes. I’m also hoping for Jeremy Renner to heal quickly.

      What is it with the anti-vaxxers, anyway? This has absolutely nothing to do with his vaccination status. Just nothing at all. I understand that some folks just do not like vaccines. But leave this poor man out of it.

      Yes, people are blaming Higgins, some of them, and it’s not his fault.

      I agree that it’s very encouraging that most people are making donations and adding $3 to the end of it as that’s Damar Hamlin’s number with the Bills.

      Most people are good, and most people want to help. Renner helped others, as you said, with the snow. Hamlin helped little kids with a toy drive before he was ever drafted by the NFL (and his family didn’t have much in the way of money, either). All the folks looking for a way to honor Hamlin is possibly the best thing I’ve seen…but I wish it hadn’t taken Hamlin’s cardiac arrest to show it.

      Many blessings to you and your family, Roger.

      Barb Caffrey

      January 5, 2023 at 9:40 am

      • I could wax lyrical, though not very politely or prettily about anti-vaxxers, and the other Conspiracy folk, of their mindsets and so forth. But I will restrain myself.
        Far better that we look upon the positive responses Barb. As you say though it is a shame that it takes tragedy to sometimes bring forth these responses. There again maybe ordinary folk are so wrapped up in their own issues it takes a tragedy to get their attention.
        Thank you for your blessing. You take care Barb.


        January 5, 2023 at 1:09 pm

      • You are most welcome, Roger.

        Barb Caffrey

        January 6, 2023 at 11:48 pm

    • I read the BBC article you passed along, Roger. It is quite informative, and I sincerely thank you for the link. 🙂

      Folks, you should read the article, especially if you honestly think Damar Hamlin’s vaccination status has anything whatsoever to do with his collapse. (If the doctors at Cincinnati’s trauma hospital say anything about Covid being a factor, or vaccines, that’s one thing. But leaping to conclusions is another, and there are unfortunately some folks out there who want to blame Covid, vaccinations, or any other bugaboo of the moment for every single thing that happens to anyone on the face of the earth. Not all of them are badly intentioned, either, though unfortunately some definitely are.)

      Barb Caffrey

      January 5, 2023 at 9:49 am

      • If I allow generosity of spirit in, I would suggest that a substantial portion of anti-vaxxers as well as other groups cannot cope with the fact that there is a Suddenness in Life over which we Humans have no control.
        It is difficult for them to accept that when it comes down to it, we like any other Life Form are subject to the Dynamics of Nature and also to the intrusion of other Life Forms (let’s not dwell on the exact status of Viruses).
        There is a conditionality in all Life and trying to pretend that you are in on some nascent Illuminate / Da Vinci code secret fairy tale just does not cut it out there in the real world.
        And yes all vaccines carry a risk (our last booster really knocked us out for a few days / daze)…BUT the alternatives are worse folks.
        And that is how Life works.


        January 5, 2023 at 1:18 pm

      • It definitely is.

        Barb Caffrey

        January 6, 2023 at 11:48 pm

  2. I’m a Hawkeye fan so have watched Jeremy Renner’s progress with interest. Last night I saw a post about Bills and Bengals fans holding a prayer vigil together outside Hamlin’s hospital. Heartwarming to see that.

    Kayelle Allen

    January 5, 2023 at 11:38 am

    • Kayelle, that’s another good thing that’s happened. All of those folks — Bengals fans, Bills fans, other teams’ fans that happen to be in Cincinnati — have stayed outside, or visited outside, and have shown their support for Damar Hamlin.

      Today, the news was promising for Hamlin. He woke up. He knew himself, and he asked how the football game went (the doctors told him “you’ve won the game of life”), and while he still is intubated, he wrote questions (like asking about the football game’s outcome). This shows he is neurologically doing quite well, which pleases me greatly.

      And yes, I’m keeping an eye on Jeremy Renner’s progress as well. I think he’ll recover, but it’s going to take some time for bones to heal and such. He seems to be in good spirits, at least, and that usually bodes well for healing.

      Barb Caffrey

      January 5, 2023 at 5:52 pm

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