It's an Emotional Reunion for Damar Hamlin

At ESPYs, Bills safety honors staff who saved his life during cardiac arrest
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2023 8:27 AM CDT
It's an Emotional Reunion for Damar Hamlin
Members of the Buffalo Bills training staff accept the Pat Tillman award for service as professional NFL player Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills, right, looks on at the ESPY awards on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Mark Terrill)

Gearing up for his return to NFL play this fall, Damar Hamlin took a moment Wednesday to honor those who saved his life when he suffered a rare cardiac arrest triggered by a hit to the chest during a Monday Night Football game in January. Appearing on stage at the ESPY Awards, the 25-year-old Buffalo Bills safety shook with tears as he prepared to present the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the Bills training staff who administered lifesaving CPR on the field. The Bills' head athletic trainer, Nate Breske, who accepted the award, credited "a massive army of specialists who came together on and off the field to do their jobs," including "paramedics and the entire medical staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center," per People.

"We had the best outcome we could have prayed for" and are "so honored to be standing next to such a strong, courageous human being," Breske said of Hamlin, per CNN. Before the presentation, Hamlin spoke in a video. "I didn't wake up ... thinking that I would need someone to save my life that day, and I doubt that the staff thought that they had to do what they did either," he said. "What I've taken away from what happened to me six and a half months ago, is that any of us at any given time are capable of doing something that's incredible, in saving a life and living a life in service to others." "It's a blessing. It's a responsibility. And it's the very reason why you're hearing my voice right now," he continued. "Anyone could be a hero. These are mine."

The Pat Tillman Award is given annually to a person or persons with a connection to sport who honor the legacy of Tillman, a former NFL player who joined the army after 9/11 and later died in Afghanistan. In a statement, Marie Tillman Shenton, co-founder and board chair of the Pat Tillman Foundation, said the Bills training staff showed a "commitment to service" in "jumping into action for one of the most frightening scenarios they could have prepared for—on the world's stage no less—and ultimately saving Damar Hamlin's life through their quick and decisive teamwork." Hamlin, who experienced commotio cordis, spent nine days in the hospital. Later cleared to return to the field, he's been spotted at practice, per Fox News. (More Damar Hamlin stories.)

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