On Jan. 2, a shockwave came during a NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills which was set to be the biggest game in Monday Night Football history. During the first quarter, Damar Hamlin–a safety for the Bills–took a hit to the chest after tackling the Bengals player, Tee Higgins. Although Hamlin initially got to his feet, he soon collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Over the next ten minutes, medical personnel came to Hamlin’s aid, issued CPR, and restarted his heart with an AED. Nineteen minutes after his collapse, Hamlin was taken off the field by an ambulance and was later transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he underwent treatment.
After Hamlin’s departure, the event left both teams reeling and the fans silent in their stands. The game was canceled, and the NFL put rules into place to determine each team’s fate continuing into the playoffs. Doctors speculated that Hamlin experienced “commotio cordis,” which occurs when a person suffers a hit to the chest with enough force to throw off their heart’s normal rhythm. In spite of his critical condition, Hamlin made dramatic improvement the following week. On Monday, Jan. 9, UC Medical staff announced, “We are thrilled and proud to share that Damar Hamlin has been released from the hospital and returned to Buffalo.” Hamlin was back at home and continuing his road to recovery.
Times of great sorrow are often followed by periods of great resilience. From the moment Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, one phrase echoed throughout the league: this was more than a game. One of the most significant fallouts from the event took form in a GoFundMe for Hamlin’s foundation. Damar Hamlin created the Chasing M Foundation–the M standing for Millions–during his time at the University of Pittsburgh. The foundation’s goal was to support toy and back-to-school drives, along with other efforts to improve student communities. His first initiative raised money on GoFundMe for a $2,500 toy drive. Now it was time for the community to give back to Hamlin. After the Monday night football game, Bengals and Bills fans flocked to support Hamlin’s charity. The GoFundMe raised more than $4 million dollars within 18 hours of the game and stood at a staggering $8.9 million dollars with more than 247,000 donors as of Jan. 20. Even as Hamlin recovered, his foundation was planning how to allocate these incredibly generous funds. The generosity of others shown through GoFundMe was a prime example of a community coming together to create light in a dark time.
During such a difficult time, the support surrounding Hamlin, his family and his foundation was overwhelming. Not only had his fans and teammates supported him, but also the entire NFL. The weekend after the incident, teams across the NFL donned “Love 4 Damar” shirts and outlined the “3” on their 30 yard lines with the Bills’ blue and red colors. The outpouring of love that followed such a terrifying incident can provide us with a valuable lesson.
Damar Hamlin leaving the Paycor Stadium in an ambulance on January 2, 2022 (Wikimedia Commons)