Love for Damar, Love for All

Damar Hamlin’s terrifyingly sudden collapse on the field during the first quarter of a highly anticipated Monday Night Football game last month captured the attention of millions, and his unbelievable recovery helped unite the NFL world.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin crumbled to the ground after a seemingly ordinary collision with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins on Monday, January 2, 2023.

Following the tackle, Hamlin got to his feet before abruptly falling to his back, where he lay for an obscene amount of time. The longer Hamlin was down on the field, the more NFL fans watching the game knew that something was wrong.

A stretcher and an ambulance rushed to the field as both teams cleared the sideline to surround the first responders tending to Hamlin in what became an unforgettably shocking scene.

The NFL medical staff members were now tasked with saving a man’s life whose heart had just stopped. Hamlin was down on the field and in critical condition.

First responders administered CPR to Hamlin with the help of an automated external defibrillator. This portable device uses the patient’s heart rhythm to deliver an electrical shock, bringing the heart back to average speed. Hamlin was later fed oxygen and loaded into the ambulance, where he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Back at Paycore Stadium, NFL officials gave the players a measly five minutes for the players to warm up and get ready to resume the game. Still, none of them were in the right mental state to continue playing. There were bigger things on everyone’s mind at that moment.

Following a quick exchange between head coaches Sean McDermott and Zac Taylor, both teams headed straight for the locker room. Neither team returned to the field that night.

Hamlin awoke a couple days after the horrible accident, wondering what had happened during the game.

“Did we win?” Hamlin wrote.

The doctors responded, “Yes, Damar, you won. You won the game of life.”

It turns out that Damar Hamlin had suffered from arrhythmia-related cardiac arrest, where his heart stopped due to an underlying condition in which the heart’s electrical system can malfunction when obstructed at an absurdly certain time in the heart’s rhythm.

In short, Hamlin’s extremely rare entrance into cardiac arrest stemmed from an underlying condition that resulted in a freak accident.

On the Sunday following the incident, the Buffalo Bills hosted the New England Patriots in their first game since Damar Hamlin’s collapse, and Bills running back Nyheim Hines came ready to play right from the opening kickoff.

“This is [a] storybook!” CBS National Television Announcer Jim Nantz shouted as Hines ran back the opening kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown.

But the best was yet to come, as lightning struck twice for the Bills and Hines himself. Later, he ran another kickoff back for a touchdown, this time from 106 yards out, to give Buffalo the third-quarter lead and eventual 35-23 win, effectively ending the rival New England Patriots’ playoff hopes.

It had been exactly three years and three months since the Buffalo Bills’ last kickoff return.

“God is real,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen declared following the emotional victory.

Due to scheduling restraints, the highly anticipated Monday night matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals would never be played, an unprecedented situation that had an immense impact on the AFC playoffs.

The Cincinnati Bengals and their fans alike were outraged when the NFL stated that their potential wild card matchup with the division rival Ravens could be played in Baltimore, even when the Bengals were the higher seed and had already won the division.

If the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 18 game, then the site for a potential wild card game between the two teams the following week would be decided by a coin toss.

While this caused an uproar and even led to a coin-flip touchdown celebration that Bengals running back Joe Mixon was fined for during the game, the Bengals took care of business, and the wild card rematch was played in Cincinnati.

After going through the immense shock of Hamlin’s sudden collapse on the field, the Buffalo Bills had also lost the chance to clinch the AFC’s number one seed, home-field advantage, and the first-round bye that comes with it. To combat this, the NFL moved the potential Bills-Chiefs AFC Championship game to Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

The NFL hoped that this would negate the advantage the Kansas City Chiefs received for having the Bills-Bengals game canceled. While it received tons of backlash from fans, the neutral site was not used, as the Cincinnati Bengals trounced the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round playoff rematch to play the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

During Hamlin’s remarkable recovery, a previous charity fundraiser made by Hamlin was found on GoFundMe, a website that hosts fundraisers for various reasons in which people can donate easily online.

The Chasing M’s Foundation Community Toy Drive was a fundraiser that Hamlin started to raise money for toys for children in need. His initial goal for the fundraiser when it was started was $2,500. Today, members from all over the NFL community came together to raise over nine million dollars in light of Damar Hamlin’s battle back to health. An incredible act of kindness that came out of a terrible situation.

Hamlin and his family were in attendance for the AFC Divisional Round rematch between the Bengals and Bills in Buffalo. Hamlin could be seen waving at the crowd and making his signature heart hands gesture. He’s made multiple public statements since the horrifying accident.

“When you put real love out into the world, it comes back to you three times as much,” Hamlin tweeted during his first public statement since the incident.

“We brought the world back together behind this,” he later tweeted.

That’s what Damar Hamlin’s message has been and always will be. To come together, unite, and spread love.

“The love is felt and extremely real,” another tweet of Hamlin’s read.

He continued, “No matter race or religion, everybody coming together in prayer!”


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