ANDPerhaps not too surprisingly, Damar Hamlin, after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field, allegedly woke up to ask who won the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
When Long Islander Jack Crowley, then 15, was roped up to his chest by the batters cage in 2015, he woke up disoriented and wanted to go back to sleep – only to find petrified adults standing around him near the playing field. When Fordham University softball player Sarah Taffet fell near home plate in 2021, she woke up feeling like she was underwater – then asked how far she had hit the ball, wanting to get back into the game.
Both, like Hamlin, suffered cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest. No information has yet been released on the cause of the Bills star’s cardiac event, although many doctors have suggested that a condition called commotio cordis may have been the culprit. He was discharged from an Ohio hospital on Monday, a week after a shocking collapse, and is continuing his recovery at another facility at home in Buffalo, New York.
This commotio cordis stopped Mr. Crowley’s heart in 2015. Doctors initially assumed that Mrs. Taffet’s cardiac arrest was caused by commotio cordis, before further examination revealed an underlying, previously undiagnosed heart defect.
Regardless of Hamlin’s diagnosis, his terrifying episode on the pitch – and the medical speculation surrounding it – has drawn attention to his concussion and sudden cardiac arrest, and survivors want to keep up that momentum. They say the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and an AED saved both Mr Crowley and Ms Taffet, imploring the public to be vigilant that these events can happen anywhere at any time and everyone must be prepared.
“A public event like this really draws attention,” says Crowley Independentdelighted that Hamlin, like himself, had survived the cardiac arrest so well. “Everyone should know how to perform CPR and an AED. It’s extremely simple, and if you know how to do it, you can save someone’s life. Even you can’t save a life; when you save someone’s life.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest, not to be confused with a heart attack, “is the sudden loss of heart function in a person with or without a diagnosis of heart disease.” “It can come on suddenly or following other symptoms” – while a heart attack is caused by a blockage of the heart.
According to the AHA, more than 356,000 cardiac arrests occur in the United States each year.
Crowley and his family were at his brother’s baseball game in 2015 when he and another brother decided to play in the nearby batting cages.
“I threw him the ball; put it back into my chest,” she says. “There was a third guy with us, our brother’s friend, who said, ‘Are you okay? I just said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ – and then I fell.”
His vision has started to tunnel, “but it’s happening very quickly,” he says. Fortunately, there were two doctors and a nurse watching their children play baseball nearby, as well as an off-duty police sergeant. They quickly went into action.
“I was unconscious, but CPR was started and electrodes were placed on me,” he says, giving “one shock – and three to four minutes later I was back. I had a pulse; I was breathing on my own. After about five o’clock I woke up and spoke. I didn’t want to go in the ambulance because I didn’t really understand what had happened.
“I really didn’t get it until someone explained to me, ‘Dude. Three minutes ago you were clinically dead.
When he first woke up, he says, “I actually wanted to go back to sleep, which sounds awful, but I was in high school; I thought my alarm clock was ringing at 6am. Then all of a sudden I finally open my eyes and see all these people around me.
He spent two days in the hospital before being released.
“They said no residual effects, nothing,” says Crowley, who just graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in biochemistry and premedical research. He is currently studying at the Boston University School of Medicine and is a paramedic.
It has been established that he suffered from concussion, “a condition in which an abnormal heart rhythm (ventricular fibrillation) and cardiac arrest occurs immediately after an object (usually something small and hard, such as a baseball or hockey puck) is struck in the chest directly above the heart in very critical moment during a heartbeat,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“In the case of commotio cordis (Latin for ‘cardiac excitation’), the impulse from the object disrupts the normal heart rhythm and leads to sudden cardiac arrest.”
The condition occurs when a beat lands directly over the heart “in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time” during the heart’s rhythm cycle, said Dr. Rod Passman, director of the arrhythmia research center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. AP.
The place where the baseball hit Mr. Crowley was “if you went all the way to the bottom of the sternum and went to the left about three or four inches,” he says Independent.
The condition is commonly seen in young male athletes, usually under the age of 20, with only a few dozen cases reported each year in the United States. About 60% of those affected survive, heart rhythm specialist Dr. Mark Link of UT Southwestern Medical Center told the AP.
However, the Fordham Softball player was in her 20s and a woman when she suffered a cardiac arrest, which was first attributed to commotio cordis during a softball game in New Jersey in October 2021. However, doctors said she had a heart defect within weeks of being born . named ALCAPA.
The circumstances of her cardiac arrest were very similar to those of Hamlin and Mr. Crowley; each one seemed fine at first before collapsing.
Ms. Taffet had just hit the ball to first base and was running to beat it before being tagged by a player on the opposing team.
“She marked me; I sort of fell forward… like I lost the wind,” says Ms. Taffet Independent. “I was absent, so I started running away from the pitch. And I just remember my body not being able to move and my eyes…everything was closing in on me.
“And then I remember that I couldn’t breathe. I thought, “I don’t know what’s going on now.” I thought I was having a panic attack or something… Everything was black and I couldn’t see anything, and all I remember was thinking, “Why can’t I?”
When her heart stopped, she fell and has no memory of it. Like Mr. Crowley, she was lucky; a physician and physician assistant were present to perform CPR, and her athletic trainer grabbed an AED, which successfully brought her heart back into rhythm.
“I only remember waking up and I like feeling like I’ve been underwater for a long time,” she says. “I was trying to catch my breath, breathing really hard and just looking around and being so confused. Even when she was told her heart had stopped, she “didn’t quite understand.”
She adds: “When I woke up, I even asked, ‘Did I hit a home run? Where did I hit the ball?”
She remembers being in the ambulance “wanting to go back there and play,” says Ms Taffet Independent. Her mother mistakenly told her that she hit the ball to third base, and “then it worked. Like, “Oh my god, I hit first base, I got a tag, and that’s what happened.” So my mom told me a false story, but it helped me understand what really happened.”
She says after two days of tests that came back normal at the hospital, she was told she could go back to school but would need further tests.
One of her doctors “didn’t believe it was just commotio cordis,” says Ms. Taffet. “This is usually seen in younger boys and more contact sports like soccer. I was hit in the chest harder than many times in my career that day. It was by no means dirty; it was a harder hit, but not something that would stop someone’s heart… so she really didn’t buy that it was just a commotio cordis. That’s why she liked the hundreds of tests later because she really wanted to make sure – and I’m glad she did because she found the cause.”
Overall, heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, the AHA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Mariell Jessup, told the AP.
“It’s not uncommon for very energetic athletes to have undiagnosed heart disease, even when they’re young athletes,” she said.
Doctors found that Ms. Taffet had undiagnosed ALCAPA, meaning an anomaly of the left pulmonary artery coronary artery, and underwent prompt surgery on November 1, 2021. By February, she had returned to playing softball.
“I had open-heart surgery and haven’t missed a single season,” she says Independent.
However, when Hamlin fell last week, her phone started blowing up.
“I got a lot of texts,” says Ms. Taffet. Her teammates sent messages saying, “Hey, I hope you’re okay – this definitely brings us back to last year’s game.”
Mr. Crowley was at his family home on Long Island when his brother came downstairs and told him that the football player suddenly collapsed just like him.
“I turned on the TV and saw a replay,” he says, saying that “it was weird watching it on the other side.”
“I was very lucky and it reminds me a bit,” he says, adding, “It definitely brought back memories.”
He says that as a teenager with diabetes, he already wanted to be a doctor – but his brush with death “definitely put me in the direction of emergency medicine.”
“I hope that’s the goal,” he says. “I’d like to work somewhere in the emergency room.”
In addition to studying medicine, he works to raise awareness and reiterates the importance of knowing CPR, owning and knowing how to use an AED. He knows that one day, as an ER doctor, he might end up treating patients like him – and like him, patients supported by experienced observers.
“I hope they’ll be in shock by the time they get to me,” he says.