Damar Hamlin and His Road to Recovery

Jason Melroy, Staff Writer

On January 2, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals had just begun a crucial Monday Night Football matchup that would be a key factor for playoff seeding. The Bills, 12-3, and the Bengals, 11-4, were just beginning their heated matchup with a lot on the line. Fans were excited, players were hyped up– that all came to an abrupt halt when #3 on the Bills went down and suffered an alarming injury. Little did everyone know, this would prove to have a huge impact on the football world.

Pictured above: Bengals and Bills players lining up before the snap, buffalorumblings.com

The Bengals were driving down the field in the first quarter. They were maintaining a 10-3 lead and looked to improve the margin. Quarterback Joe Burrow completed an ordinary pass to receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins was then tackled by Bills safety Damar Hamlin at the 5:58 mark in the first quarter. During the tackle, Higgins lowered his head which hit Hamlin in his chest, but Hamlin still completed the tackle. Hamlin got back up normally after taking the hard-hit tackle, and then a few seconds later, he fell right back down and was not moving. However, no one knew he wasn’t moving initially.

The game cut to a commercial break after the injury, as they do in almost every injury situation. When they returned from the break, they showed players gathered around Damar and the medical team. Others, distraught and scared, knelt down and couldn’t even look or contain their emotions. Fans around the world knew this was not an ordinary injury in any way.

Due to cameras not being able to zoom in on Damar, and a lack of information known to anyone besides the medical team, the game kept being sent to commercial breaks. This left fans even more anxious and concerned. When they returned from one of the commercial breaks, the announcer was explaining that CPR was being administered to Hamlin. an ambulance was immediately brought out onto the field. CPR, ambulance, players emotions—that’s all anyone knew about the situation at that point.

The ambulance finally drove off the field, leaving the players and fans, both in the stadium and watching on TV, all praying for Hamlin’s health. When the ambulance finally went into the tunnel and Hamlin’s family arrived at the ambulance, they immediately departed for the closest trauma center, UCMC (University of Cincinnati Medical Center).

Back at the stadium, emotions were clear and it was as silent as could be. Will Damar survive? Will he ever be ok again? All these questions—and many more—were running through everyone’s mind. Yes, there was a game that was supposed to be going on. But no, it was not the priority. All that mattered at that moment was his health.


Pictured above: Bills players pray in a circle for their injured teammate as the ambulance leaves the field, syracuse.com

After over an hour of nothing, the game was officially postponed as everyone expected. There was no possible way the Bills, or even the Bengals, could resume play considering the tragedy that had just occurred in front of them.

The following days unified the entire football world. Everyone appeared to have Damar Hamlin in their thoughts and they were trying to find ways to somehow help out. Eventually, somebody found his GoFundMe account, a toy drive he started to give back when he was still in college and hadn’t made it big yet. The goal that he set in December of 2020 (when he started the GoFundMe) was $2,500. The nights after his injury, the amount of money that had been donated skyrocketed. In an inspiring turn of events, 1 million dollars became 2 million, which then became 3, and so on. By a week after the night of the injury, the total was up to $8,500,000+ and counting.

According to UCMC doctors, Hamlin was listed under “critical condition” for a few days initially, which included having to be resuscitated twice in total. He also had a breathing tube as he could not breathe on his own. However, the prayers and love for Damar and his family continued to pour in. It seemed like every day there was some kind of improvement worth celebrating–whether it was small or large. 

It was later announced that the game was not going to resume that same week, and then after the league met, it was officially canceled two days after.

The league kept moving forward, however, despite all of this. The Bills resumed their season with a Week 18 matchup against their rivals, the New England Patriots. Players wore “#3” patches on their jerseys. the stadium was unified as one. the players huddled together and carried out flags in Hamlin’s honor. That game was for Damar.

Pictured above: Josh Allen (Left), Siran Neil (Middle), Taron Johnson (Right), carrying flags for Damar Hamlin during their introduction, nfl.com

The game started and the Patriots kicked it off to the Bills. It was just an ordinary start to a football game. But then, kick returner Nyheim Hines caught and ran for a 96-yard kickoff return. The first play following the injury was a kick-return touchdown. The stadium was rocking. Everyone was screaming. Social media was even going crazy too.

The game continued on. And then, with 7:06 on the clock in the 3rd quarter, the Patriots were set to kick it off to the Bills after kicking a field goal to make the score 17-14 New England. The kick soared in the air, Hines once again was the return man, and he ran for another touchdown. A 101-yard kick return touchdown. The last time a player scored twice on a kick return was in 2010. No one could believe it.

It was an exciting game. The Bills went on to win 35-23, improving their record to 13-3. Following the game, the Bills secured the #2 seed in the playoffs, with the Patriots being eliminated. The Bills had their eyes on the prize. 

After a narrow win over the Jets, the Dolphins won themselves a playoff spot. This meant that the Dolphins (7 seed) would play the Bills (2 seed) in the Wild Card round in the playoffs. 

Following the win, it was reported that Hamlin was transported to a hospital back in Buffalo, as he was doing much better. He continued to improve each day and is now out of the hospital. He has been attending a few events with the team, but Bills head coach Sean McDermott explained that Hamlin was taking “baby steps” in his recovery.

Game day quickly approached, and practices were getting the team ready all week. The Bills were hungry for a win, and the Dolphins were playing their 3rd string QB due to other injuries. 

Buffalo ended up winning the close game by a score of 34-31. It was a rough game for them as they turned the ball over numerous times, but they still came out on top. With their win, they advanced to the next round where they played the Cincinnati Bengals` on Sunday, January 22 in Buffalo.

Hamlin, who continued to make progress daily, made an appearance at the game. The crowd was going crazy, and it was a great moment all around. Unfortunately, the Bills didn’t play their best football and ended up losing the game 27-10. This marked the end of their season. The Bengals, who have now advanced, are set to play the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Conference Championship.

As the Bills look ahead and prepare for next season, Hamlin continues to progress in his recovery and looks to keep improving his health.