Damar Hamlin Brings Awareness to Cardiac Arrest; Here’s what to know

January 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin, a Buffalo Bills football player, brings awareness to cardiac arrest after collapsing on LIVE television.


AED machine located outside the nurses office.

Parker Fales and Lydia Hills

January 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin, a Buffalo Bills football player, brings awareness to cardiac arrest after collapsing on live television. Hamlin went into immediate cardiac arrest and was luckily saved by the quick thinking of bystanders. Cardiac arrest in teens and young athletes happens more frequently than recognized and should be talked about more. 

Damar Hamlin’s case is rare, however, cardiologists believe that Hamlin went into immediate cardiac arrest due to a strike to the chest at a particular time within the heart’s rhythm cycle; within moments after Hamlin collapsed, medical advisers began CPR saving his life.

“I think if every single person could be CPR trained it would be amazing because we’ve ever seen, you know, like on tv the pro football player because they started CPR within like fifteen seconds of him going down it saved his life,” Christi Dye, school nurse said, “So if you are CPR trained, with CPR you can double the likelihood of survival. And CPR with an AED you triple the likelihood of surviving that person.” 

Cardiac arrests are commonly mistaken for heart attacks but are not the same thing. 

“Cardiac arrest is an abnormal rhythm, so it’s a rhythm problem. So the heart malfunctions and it goes into an abnormal rhythm or the heart stops.” Dye said, “Heart attack is a [blood] clot problem. So there’s something restricting the blood flow to the heart. So it’s still beating but it can’t get to where it needs to go.”

Although there is no CPR class provided through the school, Dye highly recommends the Sienna class for students interested in the medical field.

“We have a class for those people who are not medical, which is our heart saver class, which lasts an hour and a half to 2.5 hours. And we go through everything from first upon the scene all the way through CPR to sudden use and sometimes aftercare,” Dye said, “It would be nice for something like that to be provided for students.”

Jesse Owen, head football coach, shared the school’s emergency action plan for if something similar to Hamlin’s case were to happen on our football field. 

“Someone immediately goes and grabs the AED and immediately goes to the gate, to open up the gate for emergency vehicles to come in. Someone will immediately call 911,” Owen said, “We have another coach that will immediately contact our athletic director, and that’s in the event that we don’t have an athletic trainer on site. If we have an athletic trainer out there on the field they would take over, but sometimes they are pulled in different directions… then we will have a coach that will immediately begin CPR.”

An AED, also known as an automatic external defibrillator, is a machine to restore a normal rhythm to a failing heart.

“The beautiful thing about AED is it is really self-explanatory,” Owen said.

Throughout the school there are a total of 6 AED machines, it is important to know where these are in case of emergency. According to school nurse Judy Mcdowell, the 6 AED machines are located in the mac gym, by the nurse’s office, in the commons right before going into the 200 hallway, in the fine arts hall on the left-hand side before the stairs go up, one in the ATC building and one by the home concession stands on the football field.

Students are advised to go to regular checkups to catch any health-related problems before issues occur.

“If you’re feeling any symptoms that are abnormal, you want to be seen just doing the regular checkups just so things can be detected,” Dye said, “But just being aware of what’s normal for you and what’s not normal and doing your regular checkups.”

Cardiac arrests are rare and something students shouldn’t fret about as long as they’re getting regular checkups and staying healthy.

“I as a parent and an adult would be much more concerned about my children driving to a school than I would be with them getting hurt playing sports,” Owen said.