Damar Hamlin injury: Here’s what it’s like to suffer cardiac arrest on the pitch

Damar Hamlin injury: Here’s what it’s like to suffer cardiac arrest on the pitch

Damar Hamlin injury: Here’s what it’s like to suffer cardiac arrest on the pitch

IIt’s perhaps not too surprising that Damar Hamlin, after suffering cardiac arrest on the field, woke up to ask who won the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.

When Long Islander Jack Crowley took a line drive to the batting cage chest in 2015, when he was 15, he woke up confused and wanted to go back to sleep – only to find petrified adults standing around him close to the field. When Fordham University softball player Sarah Taffet collapsed near home plate in 2021, she woke up feeling like she was underwater – then asked in the ambulance until where she had hit the ball, wanting to get back into the game.

Like Hamlin, they had both suffered cardiac arrest after being shot in the chest. No information has yet been released about the cause of the Bills star’s cardiac event, although many doctors have suggested a condition called commotio cordis may be the culprit. He was discharged from the Ohio hospital on Monday, a week after his shocking collapse, and is continuing his recovery at another home facility in Buffalo, New York.

It was commotio cordis that stopped Mr Crowley’s heart in 2015. Doctors first suspected commotio cordis in Ms Taffet’s cardiac arrest before further tests revealed an underlying heart defect previously undiagnosed.

Regardless of Hamlin’s diagnosis, his terrifying episode on the pitch — and the medical speculation surrounding it — has drawn attention to commotio cordis and sudden cardiac arrest, and survivors are keen to keep that momentum going. The use of CPR and DEA saved both Mr Crowley and Ms Taffet, they say, pleading with the public to be vigilant that these events can happen anywhere, at any time, and that everyone must be prepared.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was released from a hospital in Ohio and returned home to Buffalo, where he continues to recover at another hospital.


“A public event like this really grabs attention,” Mr Crowley said. The Independent, delighted that Hamlin, like him, survived cardiac arrest so well. “Everyone should know how to perform CPR and AED. It’s incredibly easy, and if you know how to do it, you could save a life. It’s not even you who could save a life; this is when are you going to save a life.

Cardiac arrest, not to be confused with heart attack, “is the sudden loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease,” according to the American Heart Association. “It can happen suddenly or as a result of other symptoms” – while a heart attack is caused by a blockage in the heart.

More than 356,000 cardiac arrests occur each year outside of a hospital in the United States, reports the AHA.

Crowley and his family were at his brother’s baseball game in 2015 when he and another sibling decided to play in the nearby batting cages.

“I threw a ball at him; he brought it back into my chest,” he says. “There was a third guy with us, our brother’s friend, who said, ‘Are you okay?’ I just said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ – and then I fell apart.

His vision started to widen, “but it happens very quickly,” he says. Fortunately, there were two doctors and a nurse watching their children playing baseball nearby, as well as an off-duty police sergeant. They quickly sprang into action.

Damar Hamlin thanks fans for their support in first message since cardiac arrest on the pitch

“I was unconscious, but they started CPR and put the electrodes on me,” he says, administering “a shock – and after between three and four minutes I was back. I had a pulse ; I was breathing on my own. After about five hours I was awake and talking. I didn’t want to get in the ambulance because I didn’t really understand what had happened.

“I didn’t really understand the seriousness of it until someone explained to me, ‘Dude. You were clinically dead three minutes ago.

When he first woke up, he said, “I actually wanted to go back to sleep, which sounds horrible, but I was in high school; it was as if my alarm clock went off at 6am. Then all of a sudden, I finally open my eyes and I see all these people around me.

He spent two days in the hospital before being released.

“They said there were no residual effects, nothing,” says Crowley, who just earned a degree in biochemistry and pre-medical studies from Stony Brook University. He is currently studying at Boston University School of Medicine and is an EMT.

Jack Crowley, studying to be a doctor at Boston University, suffered cardiac arrest at 15 when he was hit by a practice line in a batting cage

(Jack Crowley)

It was determined that he suffered from commotio cordis, “a condition in which an abnormal heart rhythm (ventricular fibrillation) and cardiac arrest occurs immediately on an object (usually something small and hard like a baseball puck or hockey) hitting the chest directly above the heart at a very critical moment during a heartbeat,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“With commotio cordis (Latin for ‘restless heart’), the impulse from the object disrupts the normal heartbeat and leads to sudden cardiac arrest.”

The condition occurs when a blow lands directly on the heart “in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time” during the heartbeat cycle, said Dr. Rod Passman, director of the arrhythmia research center at the Feinberg School of Medicine from Northwestern University. .

Where the baseball hit Mr. Crowley was “if you went all the way down your sternum and went to the left about three or four inches,” he says. The Independent.

The condition is commonly seen in young male athletes, usually under the age of 20, and only a few dozen cases are reported in the United States each year. About 60% of those affected survive, heart rhythm specialist Dr. Mark Link of UT Southwestern Medical Center told AP.

The Fordham Softball player, however, was over 20 and female when she suffered cardiac arrest first attributed to commotio cordis during a softball game in New Jersey in October 2021. However, doctors discovered within weeks that she had a heart defect from birth. called ALCAPA.

The circumstances of his cardiac arrest were very similar to those of Hamlin and Mr. Crowley; each of them initially seemed OK before falling apart.

Ms. Taffet had just hit a ball at first base and was running to beat it before being tagged by a player from the other team.

“She tagged me; I kind of fell forward… like I had gasped, ”says Ms Taffet The Independent. “I was out, so I started running away from the pitch. And I just remember my body like I couldn’t move and my eyes… everything was closing in on me.

“And then I remember not being able to breathe. I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on right now.’ I thought I was having a panic attack or something… Everything was black, and I couldn’t see, and I just remember saying, ‘Why can’t I? ‘ »

When her heart stopped, she collapsed and has no memory of it. Like Mr. Crowley, she was lucky; there was a doctor and medical assistant present to perform CPR, and his athletic trainer grabbed an AED that successfully got his heart back into rhythm.

“I just remember waking up and feeling like I was underwater for a long time,” she says. “I tried to catch my breath, breathe really hard and look around and be so confused. Even when she was told her heart had stopped, she “didn’t quite understand”.

She adds, “I even asked when I woke up, ‘Did I hit a home run? Where did I hit the ball?’

Once in the ambulance, she remembers “wanting to go back and play”, says Ms. Taffet The Independent. His mother mistakenly told him that she had hit the ball at third base, and “that’s when it started.” Like, ‘Oh my God, I hit it on first base, I got a tag and that’s what happened. So my mom told me a fake story, but it helped me understand what really happened.

After two days of tests that came back normal at the hospital, she said, she was told she could return to school but would require follow-ups.

One of her doctors “didn’t believe it was just commotio cordis,” says Ms. Taffet. “You usually see that in younger boys and more contact sports, like football. I’ve been hit in the chest harder than that day many times before in my career. It wasn’t dirty in any way it was a harder blow, but not something to stop someone’s heart… so she really didn’t believe it was just commotio cordis. That’s why she liked the hundreds of tests afterwards, because she really wanted to make sure – and I’m glad she did because she found out the cause.

In general, underlying heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, AHA chief medical officer Dr. Mariell Jessup told AP.

“It’s not uncommon to find that very vigorous athletes have undiagnosed heart problems, even if they’re young players,” she said.

Doctors found Ms. Taffet had undiagnosed ALCAPA, which stands for Abnormal Left Coronary Artery Pulmonary Artery, and she was promptly operated on Nov. 1, 2021. She was back in softball in February, she said.

“I had open heart surgery and I haven’t missed a season,” she says The Independent.

When Hamlin collapsed last week, however, her phone began to explode.

“I received a bunch of texts,” says Ms. Taffet. His teammates were texting to say, “Hey, hope you’re doing well – this definitely takes us back to that game last year.”

Mr Crowley was at his family’s home on Long Island when his brother came downstairs and told him a football player had suddenly collapsed as he had.

“I turned on the TV and saw the replay,” he says, saying it was “weird watching it from the other side.”

“I was very lucky, and it brings back memories for me a bit,” he says, adding, “It definitely brought back memories for me.”

A juvenile diabetic, he already wanted to be a doctor, he says. But his contact with death “definitely directed me to emergency medicine”.

“That’s, I hope, the goal,” he said. “I would love to work in an emergency room somewhere.”

In addition to studying medicine, he works on raising awareness and emphasizes the importance, once again, of knowing CPR, having an AED at your disposal and knowing how to use it. He knows that one day, as an emergency physician, he may end up treating patients like himself. And just like him, patients helped by knowledgeable passers-by.

“I hope by the time they get to me they will have already been shocked,” he says.

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