Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin dropped to the ground mid-game while facing the Cincinnati Bengals Jan. 3, and had been treated in the hospital, where he cheered on his team Jan. 8. (Courtesy of the Buffalo Bills via Twitter)
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin dropped to the ground mid-game while facing the Cincinnati Bengals Jan. 3, and had been treated in the hospital, where he cheered on his team Jan. 8. (Courtesy of the Buffalo Bills via Twitter)

Football fans and spectators watched aghast as the seemingly healthy Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin dropped to the ground mid-game while facing the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 3.  The alarming event is now pushing doctors to emphasize the importance of learning how to administer the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) technique to potentially save the lives of family members, friends, or surrounding persons during a medical emergency of cardiac arrest.

Interestingly, the American Heart Association (AHA) reported a 200 % increase in web traffic to its CPR website after viewing Hamlin’s medical emergency during last week’s “Monday Night Football” match.  The heightened attention seems fit since the association reports 70 % of Americans may feel reluctant to administer the technique due to either having no exposure to properly conducting the process, or a significant lapse in training.  

The reality strikes home to many Americans, as the home is generally where an overwhelming amount of cardiac arrests take place, meaning most of us would have a greater chance in saving the lives of our personal loved ones once mastering this skill. 

“You do not need a certification to save somebody’s life.  If you are in the field when somebody has a cardiac arrest and you know CPR, you start CPR immediately,” Dr. Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of AHA said in a statement. 

Unbeknownst to many, cardiac arrest, commonly exhibited through shortness of breath, chest pain and unusual fatigue, among other symptoms, is a more common occurrence than assumed, bound to take place at any sporadic time or location.  An untimely medical emergency occurs from rapid or chaotic electrical impulses in the heart, causing the heart to abruptly stop beating. 

On the other hand, heart attacks take place when the blood supply is blocked from entering part of the heart muscle. 

Administering CPR consists of hard and fast repetitive pushes on an individual’s chest with both hands done at the rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.  The process often includes mouth-to-mouth breathing, a traditional component that the AHA recommends only a doctor conduct.  However, the hands-only CPR method solely administered with chest compressions (used to treat adult cardiac arrest victims) is proven as effective as CPR given with breaths. 

Medical statistics beg the awareness from Black communities, as it is reported that roughly 383,000 out-of-hospital unexpected cardiac arrests happen annually, with four out of five cardiac arrests likely to happen at home; further highlighting that Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to undergo cardiac arrest in their workspaces, homes, or other public locations compared to their Caucasian counterparts, with survival rates being “twice as poor as for Caucasians.”

Leading doctors commenting on Damar Hamlin’s medical emergency emphasize the critical need for everyday citizens to learn and master the lifesaving skill, as one’s failure to respond in a cardiac emergency often leads to unnecessary deaths, as less than 8% of individuals who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive the fatal attack. 

Dr. Paul Chan, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri points to the advantages available to Hamlin with the benefit of an on-site health care staff that many Americans do not have in close reach, particularly those in indigent circumstances with less convenient access to medical care. 

Chan’s research has found the lack of formal CPR training provided for inexpensive rates within Black and Hispanic communities to be a major disadvantage, as training sessions are most often hosted in convention centers, or hotels typically outside of these communities.  Integrating CPR training in grade schools, and college and university campuses will help destroy barriers as well as raise the likelihood of Black and Hispanic people receiving bystander CPR in a critical time of need.

“The lesson with Damar is that getting [CPR]… as soon as possible, is the one thing that saved his life.  He had the advantage of having health care staff in the field when most individuals in the United States don’t,” Dr. Chen told NBC News. 

The AHA hosts a network of international Training Centers in more than 100 countries, annually training roughly 16 million people across the globe.

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