JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The collapse of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin during a game on January 2 may seem rare, but sudden cardiac arrest happens far too often, said Dr. Charles Gaymes, professor of pediatric cardiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).
Hamlin’s cardiac arrest “reinforces the need for availability of AEDs and training in their use,” said Gaymes, who is also a cardiologist with the Children’s Heart Center at Children’s of Mississippi and medical director of Mississippi’s chapter of Project ADAM, a program to bring automatic external defibrillators and CPR training to schools.
Cardiac arrest can occur in “otherwise healthy individuals,” he said, “and the underlying cause can be silent.”
Hamlin, who collapsed on national television, received CPR for nine minutes before being taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. He was discharged January 11 from Buffalo General Medical Center, where he had been transferred.
That scenario has happened closer to home to athletes who became patients of Gaymes after suffering cardiac arrest.
In 2013, Tyler Free was a 15-year-old playing for the Ocean Springs Greyhounds when he collapsed while running on the football field. He was resuscitated through CPR and an AED and was then flown to USA Health Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, Alabama, to Children’s of Mississippi in Jackson.
E.J. Galloway felt fatigued during a summer league basketball game at Jackson’s Jim Hill High in 2014 and was called to the bench by Coach Willie Swinney. A few minutes later, Galloway collapsed, and Swinney began performing CPR, saving his life.
With situations such as these in mind, Gaymes and his team launched Project ADAM in Mississippi. The national Project ADAM organization, started in 1999 after a series of deaths by ventricular fibrillation among high school athletes in Wisconsin and Georgia, seeks to save lives by coordinating CPR and AED training efforts in schools.
“In case someone suffers cardiac arrest, we want the faculty and staff to be prepared and skilled enough to perform CPR and use an AED until emergency responders arrive,” Gaymes said. “It is not complex, and the AEDs are all automatic.”
If someone has collapsed, the first step is to check to see if they are breathing. The next step is to tell someone to call 911 and get an AED to restore the rhythm of the heart.
“An AED should be used within three minutes,” Gaymes said. “CPR should be started and continued until the AED arrives.”
AEDs offer automated instructions that guide rescuers through the defibrillation process.
Underlying conditions that can trigger cardiac arrest can be treated with medication and implanted defibrillators. Symptoms that signal a need for cardiac screening include chest pains, lightheadedness and seizures.
Schools interested in learning more should contact the Project ADAM team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center online.