ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Three days after collapsing as a result of cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game against the Bengals, Bills safety Damar Hamlin has made substantial progress in his recovery, according to doctors treating him at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“It’s been a long and difficult road for the last three days,” Dr. William Knight said. “He has been very sick and has made a fairly remarkable recovery and improvement.”
Knight, along with Dr. Timothy Pritts, held a news conference Thursday on behalf of the medical teams treating Hamlin, who remains in the surgical and trauma intensive care unit.
The two shared several positive updates, starting with the fact that Hamlin woke up Wednesday night. They also said he can follow commands, move his extremities, communicate in writing with pen and paper, and hold the hands of family members that have remained at his bedside.
The doctors said Hamlin has exhibited “overall clinical improvement,” not just relating to his vital signs but his organ recovery, as well.
“It appears that his neurological condition and function is intact,” said Pritts.
Knight and Pritts credited the Bills’ medical staff for its handling of the situation during the game, noting that it is “fair to say” their swift and appropriate response played an important role in Hamlin’s ongoing recovery.
Per Knight’s account, Hamlin initially had a pulse when he collapsed Monday night but lost it seconds later. The trainers on the field immediately recognized Hamlin’s arrhythmia, and proceeded to resuscitate him via one round of CPR and one round of defibrillation. An ambulance then transported Hamlin to UCMC.
“The reason why we’re talking about his recovery of neurological functioning is the true critical importance of immediate, good, and high-quality CPR and immediate access to defibrillation,” said Knight.
The hospital is still conducting tests to determine what caused Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. Commotio cordis is on the list of considerations, Knight confirmed, but it is too early to definitively say.
While Hamlin’s condition has improved tremendously, Knight and Pritts stressed that he remains “critically ill.” He has a breathing tube and requires assistance breathing via ventilation, which also involves a bit of sedation. He cannot speak, only nodding and shaking his head. There are “many, many steps” still ahead of him, Pritts said.
The plan is to gradually decrease the amount of support on the ventilator in hopes that Hamlin can eventually breathe on his own. Doing so would be his next milestone in the recovery process.
Doctors said it is far too early to discuss whether Hamlin will be able to play football again, and also would not comment if they expect him to make a full recovery.
For now, though, they are encouraged by the most recent developments.
“He still has significant progress that he needs to make, but this marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care,” Pritts said. “It’s not only that the lights are on. He’s home.”
According to Pritts, one of the first things Hamlin wanted to know was who won Monday night’s game. The doctors replied, “You’ve won. You’ve won the game of life.”
After holding a walkthrough and meetings Wednesday, the Bills practiced fully Thursday.
Six players — quarterback Josh Allen (ankle/right elbow), linebacker Tyrel Dodson (knee), cornerback Taron Johnson (concussion), tight end Dawson Knox (hip), linebacker Matt Milano (knee), and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (shoulder) — were listed as limited. Safety Jordan Poyer (knee) and guard Rodger Saffold (veteran rest) did not participate.
The session was closed to the media, who are typically given a 15-minute window to watch a portion of practice. According to photos provided by the Bills, players sported smiles and also held up three fingers in honor of Hamlin, who wears No. 3.
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