Damar Hamlin’s emergency team looks back: ‘The crowd didn’t exist… it was me, God and that boy’ | ET REALITY


Growing up, John Bush Jr. boxed and played basketball and football. But on January 2, Bush was part of a relief team whose witness was the life of Damar Hamlin.

Bush, a Cincinnati native, has been a respiratory therapist on Paycor Stadium’s emergency action team since its inception in 2018. The team is the result of the emergency action plan (EAP) that every NFL stadium must have in place in case from severe trauma. . Although Bush has been on the sideline for every game since the NFL contracted the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s Level 1 trauma center, he had never crossed the line onto the field of play during a game.

That all changed when Hamlin, a second-year safety with the Bills, went into cardiac arrest during a “Monday Night Football” game between the Bills and the Bengals. Bush and the UC team rushed to perform before millions of viewers at home and more than 65,000 silent fans in the stands.

“The crowd didn’t exist at that time, it was me, God and that kid,” Bush recalled almost a year later. “I looked at him like he was my son. He is 24 years old. I have a 22-year-old daughter and a 29-year-old son. My main goal was to take him home to his mother.”

But first Bush had a more essential task to perform. When he reached where Hamlin was lying at midfield, Bush grabbed the blue Ambu bag, a self-inflating manual breathing resuscitator, and squeezed it like a balloon, allowing Hamlin to breathe.

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Bills athletic trainers began the life-saving relay, with assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington arriving first on the scene to administer CPR. Next came the UC team, including Bush and Dr. B. Woods Curry, the designated co-director at the stadium that night. Like Bush, Curry has been part of this team since 2018.

Curry, an emergency medicine physician at UC Medical Center, is a consultant to the Bengals’ EAP. Like the Bengals, the EAP team practices during the preseason and during the regular season, preparing for every possible on-field emergency. There are at least seven doctors on the field for home games, along with respiratory technicians like Bush, paramedics and at least two ambulance crews. The team has to be prepared for anything.

“There were elements to this particular case that were a little different than any particular case we’ve ever tried,” Curry said.

Nearly half an hour passed from the time Hamlin collapsed to the time he was loaded into the ambulance. During that time, Kellington performed CPR, Bush used the Ambu bag and Curry intubated Hamlin. As the ambulance drove away, Curry stayed behind in case the game resumed. Bush, however, followed Hamlin.

In the half hour the medical team spent in the field with Hamlin, the UC Medical Center trauma team was preparing for Hamlin’s arrival. This was the final leg of the relay to save lives.

Dawn Schultz, an emergency room nurse, received a text from her husband: “You’re about to get to work.”

Schultz’s husband had been watching on television, as had the husband of Dr. Valerie Sams, an emergency physician and traumatic injury specialist. Sams’ husband sent a similar text message to his wife, although he was saddened to learn later that his was the third one Sams had received. Several co-workers who attended the game sent text messages as the ambulance left the stadium to make the five-mile trip to the hospital.

Without traffic, that trip down I-71 can take as little as eight minutes. How long did it last that night?

“It felt like forever,” Sams said.

“That’s how it was,” Schultz said. “It felt like an eternity.”

But that moment is when Sams, Schultz and the rest of their team prepared to take over. The staff usually consists of one attending physician and three residents, nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians. Ventilators, monitors, and IVs are prepared and the X-ray department is alerted to a patient’s arrival. That’s simply standard operating procedure, whether you’re an NFL player or a car accident victim. This is what happens in the emergency room every night.

“When that door opened and I saw a crowd of doctors, I felt a comfort, a satisfaction that I got him where he needed to be,” Bush said.

If Bush felt comforted at that moment, he was one of the few. The rest of the world wondered, worried and prayed for Hamlin. Outside the hospital, when it started to rain, a crowd of supporters gathered. Some lit candles, others led prayers. Everyone expected Hamlin to beat the odds. However, few expected him to return to Cincinnati this weekend as an active NFL player.

In the months since, Bush’s friends have a better idea of ​​what he does. The same goes for the rest of the world.

A week after Hamlin’s injury, manufacturers of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) ran out of stock in the United States. According to Curry, there are still backorders for the machines.

“On every playing field in the United States of America, there should be an AEP and someone trained to perform CPR on spectators and apply the AED immediately,” Curry said. “The National Football League has an amazing system. These fields are the safest places to practice sports in the world. But if we can make a high school football field safer because of this incident, it would be a surprising result beyond the surprising result that Damar has had.”

The Hamlin’s Chasing Ms Foundation hosted a CPR tour that provided thousands of CPR training sessions and provided AEDs for youth sports. Hamlin also helped introduce the AED Access Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

UC Medical Center has also expanded its CPR education program, reaching out to the community to teach people how to perform hands-only CPR and how to use AEDs.

About 16 hours after collapsing, Hamlin woke up. Although he was still intubated, he could follow simple commands, wiggling his right toes and raising his left thumb. That’s when everyone on the team started to feel better.

Curry said he couldn’t sleep until he got that call. Bush had slept the night before but woke up crying because his heart was so heavy.

It wasn’t until that Friday night, four days after Hamlin collapsed on the field, that Bush was able to see him in person again. At that point, Hamlin was no longer on the ventilator and his family joined him in the room. Bush recalled that when he told him how he had done the breathing on Hamlin, Hamlin smiled “from ear to ear.” The two then beat their chests, a symbol of their mutual respect and new bond.

“That was a sense of relief,” Bush said. “And I got to hug his mom.”

The Bills and Hamlin return to Paycor Stadium on Sunday night. On Saturday, Bush will join Hamlin, his family and many others at a steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati to celebrate.

(Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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