In this exclusive video, Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM, director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, reflects on the on-field cardiac arrest of NFL safety Damar Hamlin and the lessons to learn from this dramatic event.
Krumholz, a cardiologist, is also the Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of Medicine and a professor in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale School of Medicine.
The following is a transcript of his remarks:
Hi, I’m Harlan Krumholz from the Yale School of Medicine. I’m a cardiologist, and I was reflecting on what’s happened with Damar Hamlin and all the attention that this has received, the discussions about what caused it, whether this was commotio cordis, how it could have been prevented, and what we should do in the future.
All these are good discussions, but I also thought that one of the main messages we should take away from this episode is that CPR works. CPR simply works.
In the hospital, we’re used to having cardiac codes and responding to cardiac arrest, but here’s a situation on “Monday Night Football,” where the world was shown what a first responder team can do, what laypeople are capable of doing in a situation where suddenly and unexpectedly someone has a cardiac arrest. And I thought, this is such a great educational opportunity for our communities.
We can think about our patients, and some patients may have questions about this. We can tell them how important it is for them to learn CPR for their loved ones and people they know, and to make sure there are defibrillators that are in various different places.
But this is also an opportunity for us to talk with our communities. We all live in communities that have sporting events and concentrations of people in different places. And this, seen by so many people, and then echoed by the news and by so much media, is an educational opportunity for us to talk to our communities and say, “We can save lives. We can save lives.”
This person would have died had it not been for the rapid response. People moving in forcefully, meaningfully, to his side and beginning compressions, beginning CPR, basic CPR first, and then getting a defibrillator and shocking him. Now the entire world can see how effective this simple technique is.
Now in the medical profession, we’re trained routinely in CPR. We’re ready to respond; we think this way. But we can do even better, because the more people that know CPR, the more people who can move forward when the moment requires it and can save a life.
I think often this is one of those areas of medicine that’s the best possible. If you can move forward and convert someone back into normal sinus rhythm, you can bring them back to what they were before. You can not only save a life, but you can save disability. You can make it so that person can resume their normal life as if that hadn’t happened. Then we can search for the underlying causes, and we can address them and try to prevent issues in the future, but it’s one of the best things we do in medicine.
So, I don’t think we should lose this opportunity. It’s such a teachable moment. So many people had their eyes riveted on that “Monday Night Football” game, and so many people have heard about it subsequently.
It’s a moment for us to take very much of an advocacy position, pushing for defibrillators in our communities, pushing for people to be trained in CPR, and showing the power of a rapid first response that can take someone and establish, “Do they not have a pulse? Do I need to do something about that? Should I begin compressions? Can we get a defibrillator here or at least call for help so someone can come with a defibrillator?”
This is a moment for all of us in the medical profession to think, yeah, we can take this and generalize it to wherever we live and to try to make sure that people understand the power of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the power of simple actions, and that minutes matter. Minutes, seconds, matter in these situations. We can use this in our communities to really make it so that we really give a big push for CPR, and we give an opportunity for our communities to save more lives.
The American Heart Association has a video tutorial for performing proper CPR here.