CINCINNATI (WIVB) — According to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Bills safety Damar Hamlin is awake after going into cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam initially broke the news that Hamlin was awake via Twitter.
“Our boy is doing better, awake and showing more signs of improvement,” Elam tweeted Thursday morning. “Thank you God. Keep the prayers coming please. All love 3!”
Hamlin, 24, was put in a medically induced coma at the UC Medical Center following the incident. Tuesday, the Bills released a statement saying Hamlin remained at the hospital in critical condition.
Dr. William Knight IV and Dr. Timothy Pritts of the UC Medical Center spoke to the press Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Pritts said Hamlin has been making “substantial progress” and said the hospital is proud to report that he is neurologically intact. He said Hamlin continues to be cared for in the ICU and still needs to make significant progress, but his awakening marks a good turning point in his ongoing care.
Dr. Knight said the Bills medical staff promptly recognized Hamlin’s cardiac arrest and provided CPR and defibrillation on the field before being taken to emergency care at UC Medical Center. He said Hamlin’s progress has been “a long and difficult road,” that Hamlin is still sick, but has shown “remarkable recovery and improvement.”
Both doctors said that the immediate CPR is what led to Hamlin’s positive progress in recovery. Dr. Pritts said had CPR taken longer, there could have been a less favorable outcome.
Dr. Pritts also said as Hamlin woke up, the Bills defensive back was able to follow commands and even asked who won Monday night’s game, communicating in writing. He said Hamlin cannot yet speak, as he is still using breathing tube.
“When he asked, ‘Did we win?’ the answer is, ‘Yes, Damar, you won. You won the game of life,” Dr. Pritts said.
From the hospital’s standpoint, next steps are continued improvement, breathing on his own, and ready to be discharged from the hospital, Dr. Pritts said. He added that Hamlin’s family and Bills colleagues have been at his bedside since the beginning, and the hospital wants to get him home to them.
“His parents have been with him constantly. There’s a lot of family members — a lot of support from his family and friends,” Dr. Knight said. “As well as members of the Buffalo Bills administrative and medical teams that have been really at his bedside throughout.”
Among the Bills staff remaining in Cincinnati is general manager Brandon Beane.
Prior to the press conference, the Bills provided an update of their own.
“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 statement read. “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.”
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Hamlin opened his eyes Wednesday night and the hospital later confirmed that he has been holding people’s hands, writing notes, and moving his feet.
“We’ve discussed with him what happened,” Dr. Pritts said. “He expressed surprise that he had not been with the world for two days and we talked to him about all the support that’s been given from Cincinnati, Buffalo, and really, across the country.”
He continued, discussing Hamlin’s mental state.
“It’s not only that the lights are on — we know that he’s home,” Dr. Pritts said.
Dr. Knight said the best outcome would be getting Hamlin back to who he was at 8:00 on Monday before this happened, but said it’s “entirely too early” to determine whether he will play football again.
Dr. Pritts said the hospital will gradually decrease the amount of ventilation support and let Hamlin pick up the difference. Once he no longer needs a breathing tube, it will be removed entirely.
He later addressed that many people on staff were watching the game as the collision happened.
“I think probably everybody on the staff was watching the game live who wasn’t involved in patient care,” he said. “It was a highly watched game and I know I had at least three partners who were physically at the game when this happened.”
Dr. Knight said that each team having a trained medical team, including physicians, is helpful to athletes going down with injuries. He also acknowledged the fact that having multiple camera angles of the incident helps doctors to analyze the collision.
The doctors did not go in-depth regarding tests Hamlin is going through, but said tests will be ongoing as they assess the injury.
Since the incident, Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation, initially established to support a toy drive in Hamlin’s community of McKees Rocks, Pa., has received over $7 million in donations.
The NFL released a statement on Tuesday, saying that the Bills-Bengals game would not resume this week. They have since said they are weighing all options regarding the game.
The hospital’s afternoon update can be viewed in full below.