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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Feature | Damar Hamlin reflects on past and future during CPR tour

Buffalo+Bills+defensive+back+Damar+Hamlin+and+his+brother%2C+Damir+Hamlin%2C+at+a+charity+softball+event+at+the+Charles+L.+Cost+Field+on+Saturday+evening.%0A
Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor
Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin and his brother, Damir Hamlin, at a charity softball event at the Charles L. Cost Field on Saturday evening.

Standing beside a podium at PNC Park in the North Shore, Bills safety Damar Hamlin was quiet, silently waiting for his time to take the stage. Finally, a representative from the mayor’s office introduced Hamlin and presented him with one of the highest honors the City can bestow — a proclamation naming July 9, 2023 as Damar Hamlin Day in Pittsburgh. 

While Hamlin appeared energetic and healthy, the state of Hamlin’s health still loomed large over the crowd of fans who attended on Sunday. Just a few months ago, not many expected Hamlin to survive this long — let alone recover enough to make public appearances like this. 

On Jan. 2, 2023, during a Monday Night Football game between the Bills and the Bengals, Hamlin made a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higins. But moments later, Hamlin went into sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field. 

As medics rushed onto the field, it became apparent that Hamlin’s heart had stopped. Through CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator machine (AED), medics were able to stabilize Hamlin, which ultimately saved his life. 

Now, over six months after his near-death experience, Hamlin wants to make sure everyone has access to the life-saving treatments that medics used on that cold night in January. 

“My experience has shown the world how important CPR is and having access to AEDs should a cardiac arrest happen,” Hamlin said. 

In addition to receiving his name day proclamation from the mayor’s office, Hamlin and his charity — the Chasing M’s Foundation — also hosted several organizations to teach attendees CPR and distribute AED devices to local youth sports organizations. This event in Pittsburgh is a part of a larger CPR drive by the Chasing M’s Foundation, as the charity also hosted a similar event in Buffalo, New York, and will host an event in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

“The Chasing M’s CPR tour is just the first of our initiatives,” Hamlin said. “This is something we knew we wanted to do immediately as I was recovering. Me and my family sat down and we wanted to grow through our situation.”

And while his harrowing fight for his life touched the hearts of millions of Americans, Hamlin hopes that his charity initiatives will have a much bigger impact. Hamlin has teamed up with the American Heart Association to spread CPR awareness nation-wide. Nancy Brown — the CEO of the American Heart Association — believes Hamlin’s involvement with her organization will have major positive impacts.

“It means the world,” Brown said about Hamlin’s involvement. “We have been training people in CPR for decades and, with Damar’s voice and with Damar’s presence for being an advocate of CPR, it helps raise awareness. It brings people out on a day like today [Hamlin’s CPR event], so they can learn life-saving skills.”

Like many others, Brown watched Hamlin’s fight for his life on live television. While Hamlin’s fight was distressing, Brown said that it was the perfect example for how responders should handle a cardiac arrest. 

“What we witnessed on Monday Night Football was every step in the chain of survival working perfectly,” Brown said. “There was recognition of an issue, there were emergency responders onsite, high quality CPR was administered and use of an [AED]. It saved his life and so Damar, his foundation and the [American Heart Association] are in partnership to make sure everyone has that same chance at life.”

Health professionals in Pittsburgh also believe Hamlin’s efforts will have a positive impact on the local community and nation-wide. Dr. Edward Snell, M.D. — who is an orthopedic physician for the Allegheny Health Network — believes Hamlin’s efforts will help tremendously in spreading CPR awareness and ultimately saving lives. 

“In Pittsburgh, I think people will embrace what he is doing here and, hopefully, will help people get more educated.” Snell said. “We have a really good example of this. My chairman of orthopedics was down in Bradenton and responded to a spectator that went down on the field when they were watching practice, and his actions saved the man’s life.”

In addition to CPR training, the Chasing M’s Foundation also hosted Stryker — a company that creates AEDs for public use. The company had a stand to demonstrate to attendees how to use the device, as well as helping Hamlin distribute AEDs to local youth organizations. 

The CPR drive at PNC Park was just one event in a weekend of charity initiatives organized by Hamlin. The Chasing M’s Foundation kicked off the weekend on Friday, July 7, with a youth football camp at Cupples Stadium in Southside. Hamlin and the charity also hosted a celebrity softball game at Charles L. Cost Field on Pitt’s campus. Notable NFL stars such as Hamlin’s Bills teammate Stefon Diggs and former Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald were in attendance at the softball game. 

But, for Hamlin, the goal remains clear. Despite the glamor of the weekend’s celebrations and events, Hamlin remained focused on one thing — making CPR and other life-saving treatments accessible to everyone that needs it. 

“To me, this is all about creating a ripple effect,” Hamlin said. “Somewhere in the crowd, there could be someone who learns CPR today [Sunday, July 9] and has the chance, somewhere down the line, to save a life. And I believe that you should not have to play in the NFL to know that you will have the chance to be saved from a cardiac arrest.”

And, while his journey was not easy, Hamlin is grateful that his experiences can have such a positive impact across the nation. 

“The road I traveled the last six months was not easy,” Hamlin said. “But my heart is lifted by the impact my story has had on others. And now, across the nation, more people are learning CPR daily, new legislation is being passed that will protect our youth and schools are making sure they have AEDs and know how to use them.”

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor