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UC Medical Center updates the status of Damar Hamlin in his recovery

A long Q&A yielded a ton of good news

Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin Critical After MNF Collapse Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Two of the doctors who revived and continue to support Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin following his cardiac arrest on Monday night took questions for nearly a full hour Thursday afternoon. In a wide-ranging Q&A, they answered about the immediate care on the field, the progress he’s made in the hospital, and his future.

They started with the information that’s already been reported:

“He’s made substantial improvement,” said Dr. Timothy Pritts of UC Health. “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.”

Hamlin has been able to open his eyes and communicate with the staff using his hands, pen, and paper. The first thing he asked was, “Who won?” The doctors responded with, “You did. You won the game of life.”

Doctors were hesitant to offer any long-term prognosis for Hamlin, but said the best-case scenario is that he’s exactly how he was at 8:00 p.m. EST on Monday night before the game. In order for him to do that, they need to “liberate” him from the breathing machine he currently has helping him. The ventilator is used as an aide, and they will decrease the amount of oxygen he’s receiving artificially.

Hamlin is aware of the outpouring of love and money from across the United States, and he’s been supported by his family and the Bills organization throughout.

That brings us back to the beginning, when the hit occurred. When Bills trainers reached him, he still had a pulse, but that faded while the medical staff was working on him. They immediately began CPR on the field as well as shocks from an automated external defibrillator (AED), which was able to get his heart back into rhythm. They also intubated him on the field by placing a breathing apparatus down his throat. That remains in place for now.

The Bills identified the athletic trainer who began CPR as Denny Kellington, and doctors at the UCMC credited him with ultimately saving Hamlin’s life. The fact that the training staff was able to immediately recognize the fact that Hamlin was in cardiac arrest allowed for immediate resuscitation.

When asked if they had any idea as to why Hamlin had suffered a cardiac arrest, whether there was an unknown medical problem before the game began or if the events of the game were the sole cause, the doctors said that they have no definitive answers as to the etiology of the cardiac event.

“Tests will be ongoing as he continues to improve,” Dr. Pritts said.

As to the real answer to Hamlin’s question of who won the game, the game was suspended as players headed to the locker room while the ambulance transporting Hamlin headed to the Trauma 1 University of Cincinnati Medical Center. On Thursday, it was reported that the game would not be resumed, and the results vacated.

For the Bills, thoughts about the status of the game, as well as the plans for this coming week’s game against the New England Patriots, have been secondary as they have focused on their teammate. Hamlin’s father, Mario, met with the team via Zoom, and the conversation was one that was much needed as the mood in the locker room changed after the meeting.