Monday, July 3, 2023

Yankees HOPE Week Day 1: Damar Hamlin

Damar Hamlin, flashing his singaure "3," with Fordham softball player Sarah Taffet and Yankees players, including Gerrit Cole (far left), Anthony Volpe (third from left), Anthony Rizzo and Michael King (next to Hamlin), and Luis Severino (far right). Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees began the 14th edition of HOPE Week with honoree Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills.

Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest during the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2023, took part in CPR training in the Yankee Stadium outfield with Yankees players, including Gerrit Cole, Anthony Volpe, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Higashioka, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa; and personnel from the American Heart Association and Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL).

Sarah Taffet, a former softball player at Fordham University in The Bronx, also participated. On October 3, 2021, she was resuscitated during a game with CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) by a Fordham athletic trainer and other medical professionals.

Hamlin said after the event that he had to “get up here to say how important that today was, and I just want to give a big thank you to the Yankees for spending time in their busy season, in the middle of a stretch of 14 days, stretch of games, I couldn’t even imagine - that’s almost our entire regular season. For them taking the time out in the middle of their stretch to come out here and learn CPR, as well as on top of that, seeing figures like them in the community, who everyone looks up to. The Yankees are a staple in history, let alone just New York, it’s worldwide history, so people being able to see them come out here and learn CPR, it will have a big trickle effect around the rest of the world, people wanting to get trained as well. That’s been my goal, to make an impact.”

The American Heart Association was presented with a $10,000 check from the New York Yankees Foundation. Photo by Jason Schott. 

Jason Zillo, Yankees Vice President Communications & Media Relations, and the creator of HOPE (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) Week, said, “If Gerrit Cole’s doing a CPR training, then maybe I should, too. That’s the impetus for the event.”

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of HOPE Week, "I think, what we've, certainly since I've been here, this is my sixth year now, almost every HOPE Week event that we've had has been really meaningful to, not only the organizations and the people we're trying to shine a light on, but, I think, also, all of our players, coaches, and staff and everyone that gets to, you know, share in this week, be part of it, it's a big deal. It'll probably be the most important thing and best thing we do all year, and that's hopefully talking around being in the World Series. This will be something we'll all look back on and, hopefully, take a lot of pride in. It means a lot to a lot of people."

Boone then was asked his reaction to seeing that Hamlin was chosen as an honoree and if he is in on the selection process, "No, I'm not, that's Jason (Zillo) and he does such a great job of finding so many, like every year, it's like, 'oh, that's really neat,' and this year we have the same kind of eclectic mix and ranges of things that are just great causes and great things to take part in, so every time he unveils the lineup of what we're doing each week and then seeing how guys are signing up and what they're signing up for, it's always neat, educational, and honestly really interesting to kind of dive into the stories and things that you never would have necessarily thought of, or that you're not a part of, that are inspiring more often than not.

Anthony Volpe (left) and Anthony Rizzo (right) share a moment with Damar Hamlin. Photo by Jason Schott.

Rizzo said this was a chance to “be able to give back with the platform we have."

Volpe, the Yankees’ rookie shortstop who came up through the organization, said, “I think it’s pretty important, pretty special, did it in the Minor Leagues, it really shows the reach and the opportunity we have as players to spread awareness…

“I was watching the game when (Hamlin went into cardiac arrest), and I was super impacted. For him to be here and then telling Sarah’s story; we obviously know a lot about Damar, but realize that it happens to a lot of people.”

Kyle Higashioka (center) and Anthony Volpe (far right) during the CPR training. Photo by Jason Schott.

After the event, participants had lunch catered by the Hard Rock Cafe and a private tour of Yankee Stadium and watched batting practice on the field. Hamlin and Taffet threw out first pitches to Yankees training staff.

Damar Hamlin shares a laugh with Luis Severino. Photo by Jason Schott.


The story is well-known at this point. On January 2, 2023, during a Monday Night Football matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s heart stopped while making a routine tackle. Upon impact with his target, Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed. The moment sent all that witnessed it into shock, from the thousands inside Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium, to the millions watching on TV. Nothing needed to be said on the broadcast, one could tell from the mood of those on the field, Hamlin was fighting for his life. Thankfully, first responders acted fast and resuscitated him by performing CPR and using a defibrillator. 

“This event was life-changing, but it’s not the end of my story,” Hamlin said in April.

In just a few months since suffering cardiac arrest, the 25-year-old has already made his way back onto the field. Back in April, three specialists unanimously cleared Hamlin to return to football activities. While the quick recovery is a credit to Hamlin’s courage and perseverance, none of it would’ve been possible without the first responders in Cincinnati on January 2.

“Immediate CPR and defibrillation by medical personnel at the football game who responded rapidly is absolutely, certainly what saved Mr. Hamlin’s life and his brain,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, professor of medicine and cardiology at the U. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Dallas.

Hamlin spent another week at the U. of Cincinnati Medical Center after his cardiac arrest and appeared to show no neurological deficits. He left the hospital not only a survivor of one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but without any brain damage or injury - something that less than 10 percent of cardiac arrest survivors can say.

“A few extra minutes or even a few extra seconds and it could have been a different outcome,” said Dr. William Knight IV, an emergency medicine and trauma specialist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Hamlin’s story is well known due to the national coverage it received. But incidents - and in many cases, tragedies - can occur at any time and at any level of sports or in everyday life. With Hamlin, the first responders were prepared and acted swiftly. To save more lives, those outside of medicine need to be prepared to perform those duties.

Hamlin has put himself at the forefront of spreading CPR awareness and education. In February, he announced a partnership with the American Heart Association and launched the ‘3forHeart CPR Challenge,’ which has helped raise nearly $2.5 million (and counting) to fund CPR awareness and education. 

Hamlin also met with President Biden at the White House in March, and spoke before Congress, echoing the support of the “Access to AEDs Act,” which would increase training and availability to AEDs in schools.

“We are so humbled and inspired by what I feel is the opportunity that God has given me to help and protect young people based on what I experienced,” Hamlin said in late March. “The Access to AEDs Act” will help ensure that schools are just as prepared and trained to respond in a time of crisis as those on the sideline in an NFL game.”

While Hamlin has put a lot into making his triumphant return to football, it’s clear that he’s equally invested in saving lives. At the annual NFL Awards Ceremony in February, Hamlin accepted the Community Award. During his emotional speech - weeks before knowing he would be able to return to playing the game he loves - Hamlin stated, “I have a long road ahead, a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones, but it’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose.”

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