HOUSTON – There’s an encouraging medical update regarding Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin following his cardiac arrest and hospitalization Monday night as he is regarded as “neurologically intact,” with his lungs improving while remaining in critical condition at an intensive care unit.
“Per the physicians caring for Damar Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Damar has shown remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the Bills announced on social media. “While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress. We are grateful for the love and support we have received.”
Hamlin’s heart stopped after tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and he was revived on the field with CPR and a defibrillator and transported to a local hospital. This latest update follows Hamlin breathing 50 percent on his own with the help of life support.
“The outpouring of support for Damar across the nation has been amazing,’ his sports agency, Agency 1, said in a statement. “Thank you for the calls, messages, and emails. Damar has made substantial improvement overnight. We are so thankful for all of the first responders, doctors and hospital staff and every one who has played a role in this process. Please continue to pray for Damar and we will provide update as they are available. Thank you.”
Several Texans players have close connections to Hamlin, a former sixth-round draft pick from Pitt.
Hamlin played high school football with Texans rookie defensive tackle Kurt Hinish. He was college teammates with Texans center Jimmy Morrissey.
And he was a teammate last year of defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
The Texans made a $10,003 donation to Hamlin’s GoFundMe page, initially a toy drive with a goal of $2,500, that has raised more than $7 million in a staggering show of support across the nation.
“It’s a gladiator’s game, I think a lot of us understand that,” Hughes said Wednesday. “I think a lot of us understand that. We’ve seen guys break ankles, break bones, we’ve seen guys go through concussion protocols from high school all the way up to the NFL level. We certainly know the risk that we put on our body when we go out and do it.
“But I don’t think anyone puts on pads with the intent of hurting anyone or puts on the pads with the intent that this is the last time they’re going to be able to do that. We understand it’s a game and we’re viewed as being these gladiators, but we’re still human. We know that we’ve got to just not take this for granted.”
Hamlin was regarded as a team leader at Pitt playing for coach Pat Narduzzi.
“It’s scary and heartbreaking that a guy I’ve known for a while and his parents, nothing but good people, have to go through something like this,” Morrissey said. “Damar’s living out his dream, and next thing you know it’s a different story. Hopefully, he makes a full recovery and gets to continue living out his dream.”
A former blue-chip recruit who remained home in Pittsburgh after drawing scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State, Hamlin wanted to provide an example.
“He had like every offer, and he said the main reason was to be like a role model to his younger brother,” Morrissey said. “That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s a great competitor, loves the game of football. He’s just a great guy. Tragedy happened to him. It’s really sad, but Damar is a great, great guy.
“Coach Narduzzi said Damar is one of the smartest players he’s ever coached on the defensive side. He was like a field general out there. He is definitely a leader. At Pitt, he was a leader.”
Morrissey saw the medical incident live at his apartment, watching the game with his teammate, Charlie Heck.
“It was scary,” he said. “At first I thought it was just a concussion or something. Then, obviously the ambulance. What really freaked me out was the sideline reaction. I’ve never seen anything like that before from teammates. I called a teammate of mine, speaking to on the phone, trying to get any update we could. A lot of rumors were floating around and stuff no one really had an answer to. It was scary. It was really scary to watch live.”
The Texans have provided mental health resources for players, as have the other teams around the league.
Morrissey emphasized it’s not about him, it’s about his friend.
“Personally, it’s just more I feel terrible for him and his family because I saw his mom rode with him in the ambulance,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine my mom having to go through something like that. I know his mom and his dad, they traveled to all the games at Pitt. They were always around. His younger brother was always around.
“It’s heartbreaking because Damar is a great guy. His parents are awesome. I’ve never had anything but great experiences with him. My only memories of his parents when I saw them in college was just great. They’re really positive people. They travel all around the country to watch Pitt and their son Damar play. It’s really sad.” Personally, I’m doing okay. I’m fine, just all my sympathy goes out to the Hamlin family. I feel bad for him.”
At Central Catholic High School, Hamlin and Hinish won a state championship together. They have the same trainer back home and they regularly exchange texts.
“He’s a great football player but an even better person,” Hinish said. “Speaking from my relationship and me observing his relationship with his family, he’s a super family-oriented kind of kid. He obviously chose to stay home in Pittsburgh and go to the University of Pittsburgh to set a great example for his younger brother and everyone else he grew up with in that community.”
Hinish saw Hamlin collapse while attending a defensive line dinner at Sugar Room in Houston.
“I walked into the restaurant, and I literally saw him tackle the guy, stand up and then collapse,” Hinish said. My heart dropped. I didn’t know if he had a concussion, and then it went into the whole fiasco that it turned in to. From what I understand, reading everything, it seems like everything is going in the right direction.”
Because of Hamlin’s strength of character and passion for life, Hinish said Wednesday he sees him coming out of this medical ordeal strong. Hinish has known him since he was a freshman in high school.
“Mentally, he’s just such a strong person that if anyone was put to this test, if I could see anybody coming out on the other side of this, it would be him,” Hinish said. “Just the mental fortitude that he has and the way we train, just the way he carries himself every day, that means lot. From an outsider’s point of view, if it’s anyone that’s going to pull through this and come out fantastic and better than he was, it’s going to be him. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com