Hamlin collapse leads to increasing concerns in Kanawha schools

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are heightened concerns among Kanawha County Board of Education members following the Monday night collapse of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin.

Tracy White

During a Tuesday night board meeting in Charleston, board president Tracy White said she’s received a lot of messages from the school community about ways to address situations of cardiac arrest.

Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a tackle during the Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Officials say Hamlin was given CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED)  from AED Advantage Sales Ltd. was used to revive the 24 year old’s heartbeat.

White asked Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams about AEDs and if school nurses are trained to use them.

Tom Williams

“(The public) wants us to make aware in our schools where the AED equipment is, not just to staff or whoever would use it, but as a whole, so that if something does happen and there happens to be a nurse there, the nurse knows where it is and it would be someone who knows how to use it,” White said.

Williams responded that the school system is actively trying to make AEDs more visible in the event that a student athlete, a teacher or coach would pass out.

“Especially at the high school level with kids making them aware because they can run fairly quickly and get one if a teacher were to go down,” Williams said. “We have ones that are attached in the second floor and first floor in a school because time is of the essence.”

The American Heart Association defined cardiac arrest as the heart stopping abruptly with little or no warning. In a Tuesday news release, the association said the cause of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest could’ve been commotio cordis, a rare phenomenon from a sudden blunt impact to the chest.

“The blow to the chest at precisely the wrong time in the cardiac cycle can cause an electrical abnormality in the heart resulting in an irregular heart rhythm that cannot pump blood to the body,” the release stated.

Jim Crawford

Kanawha County school board member Jim Crawford said it’s very uncommon.

“The running back hit him right in the chest. It’s one in a thousand times that would happen. It just happened to be at the right time when the heart was getting ready to beat and it shut it down,” he said.

Crawford said the school system has to hold itself accountable for potentially dangerous situations like this one.

“You can never be too careful. It’s your responsibility to take care of our students athletes. You need to be on top of everything,” he said.

Williams said AEDs are meant to help someone seriously suffering.

“The AED won’t work unless it’s needed. It won’t just shock you because you pushed the button,” he reassured. “It it detects that it’s not needed then it won’t work,” he said.

Hamlin remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

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