Damar Hamlin is now breathing independently and able to speak after the Buffalo Bills player suffered cardiac arrest on-field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2 and was rushed into intensive care.
Hamlin had previously been relying on a breathing tube and was communicating to his family and medical professionals in writing. Now, the tube has been removed, and Hamlin is communicating verbally. According to the Bills, he addressed his teammates and coaches via FaceTime, saying, “Love you boys.”
In another tweet, the Bills wrote, “Per the physicians at UCMC, Damar’s breathing tube was removed overnight. He continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.”
The NFL announced a series of activations in support of Hamlin, encouraging teams to hold a pregame moment of “support and love for Damar” and the first responders and medical caregivers, which will take place prior to the National Anthem. The league also is giving clubs the option to outline Hamlin’s number, 3, in the 30-yard line number in Buffalo Bills Red or Blue. Players can also wear black Nike t-shirts displaying “Love for Damar 3” before the game, and the Bills players will wear “3” patches on their jerseys in Week 18.
Hamlin was hospitalized after he collapsed during the “Monday Night Football” game and was taken off the field by an ambulance. During a press conference on Jan. 5, physicians overseeing his care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said that Hamlin had been holding the hands of his family members and hospital staffers, as well as asking who won the Bills-Bengals game by writing on a piece of paper.
“He’s made substantial improvement,” Dr. Timothy Pritts said of the NFL player earlier this week. “It appears his neurological condition and function is intact. We are very proud to report that…This marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care.”
The doctors said Hamlin initially had a pulse but lost it, and received immediate bystander CPR.
After Hamlin was taken off the field, the Bills-Bengals game was suspended in its first quarter. In a tweet, the Bills confirmed that Hamlin received CPR on the field and that “his heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment.” He was listed in critical condition.
The situation played out on the “MNF” broadcast around 8:55 p.m. ET, when Hamlin rose to his feet after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and then suddenly collapsed. As medical personnel attended to Hamlin, players for both teams looked visibly distraught, with ESPN reporters describing the sight of Bills players openly weeping. Moments after Hamlin was taken off the field, the team gathered in a circle in prayer.
The ambulance left the stadium at 9:25 p.m. ET and transported Hamlin to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the nearest trauma center to Paycor Stadium. “MNF” announcer Joe Buck reported that Hamlin’s mother was at the game and accompanied him to the hospital.
On social media, other NFL stars, as well as entertainment industry leaders such as Disney chief Bob Iger, offered thoughts and prayers for Hamlin and his family.
“On behalf of our family, we want to express our sincere gratitude for the love and support shown to Damar during this challenging time. We are deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country,” the Hamlin family said in a statement on Jan. 3. “We also want to acknowledge the dedicated first responders and healthcare professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who have provided exceptional care to Damar. We feel so blessed to be part of the Buffalo Bills organization and to have their support. We also want to thank Coach Taylor and the Bengals for everything they’ve done. Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us. Please keep Damar in your prayers. We will release updates as soon as we have them.”