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Reflecting on Damar Hamlin’s Crisis Response Squad: “No Crowd, Just Me, God, and that Child”

Growing up, John Bush Jr. participated in boxing, basketball, and football. However, his role took an unexpected turn on Jan. 2, when he was part of a relay team responsible for saving the life of Damar Hamlin. As a respiratory therapist on the Paycor Stadium emergency action team, Bush had been present for every NFL game since 2018 but had never been on the playing field during a game. That changed when Hamlin, a player for the Buffalo Bills, experienced cardiac arrest during a “Monday Night Football” match against the Cincinnati Bengals. Bush and his team rushed to Hamlin’s aid, disregarding the crowd and focusing solely on the young player’s well-being. Bush used a self-inflating resuscitator to ensure Hamlin’s breathing. The Bills’ athletic trainers and Dr. B. Woods Curry also played crucial roles in the life-saving relay. It took nearly half an hour for Hamlin to be transported to UC Medical Center, during which time the trauma team prepared to receive him. Dawn Schultz, an emergency room nurse, received a text from her husband alerting her to the upcoming influx of patients, while Dr. Valerie Sams’ husband also sent her a similar message. The medical team ensured that all necessary equipment and personnel were ready to treat Hamlin upon his arrival. The support and prayers from the wider world were constant as everyone hoped for Hamlin’s recovery. In the months following the incident, Hamlin’s foundation promoted CPR training and the availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). UC Medical Center expanded its CPR education program, reaching out to the community to teach hands-only CPR and AED usage. After 16 hours, Hamlin woke up and showed signs of progress, providing immense relief to the medical team. Four days later, Bush had the opportunity to see Hamlin again, off the ventilator and surrounded by his family. Their reunion brought a sense of relief and a deep bond between them. The Buffalo Bills and Hamlin will return to Paycor Stadium, where Bush will join them in celebrating Hamlin’s recovery.


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