It is still unclear what led to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest — a condition that results from electrical disturbances that cause the heart to suddenly stop beating properly. Death can occur quickly if help isn’t rendered immediately.
It is not the same as a heart attack or heart failure.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained that when the heart is not beating well, fluid can sometimes back up into the lungs and make it hard for medical staff to oxygenate the patient. So, they will flip the person on their stomach into a prone position to make breathing easier.
Gupta also said it sounds like Hamlin is still having a significant amount of cardiac dysfunction and his heart cannot pump enough blood.
One of the treatment options is to decrease the body’s demand for oxygenated blood.
“So you want to improve the amount of circulation, but in the interim, you can also decrease the demand by sedating somebody, by keeping them on a breathing machine,” he said.
“Sometimes they’ll even use cooling agents, hypothermia it’s called, to basically almost put the body in more of a hibernation-like state so it’s not demanding as much oxygenated blood. That’s part of the reason he would be on a breathing machine as well.”
Hamlin’s condition: The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety is on a ventilator to relieve some of the strain on his lungs, which have been damaged, according to his uncle Dorrian Glenn.
The doctors told Glenn his nephew has also been “flipped over on his stomach” in the hospital to help with the blood on his lungs, he said, adding, “It seems like he’s trending upwards in a positive way.”
On-field injuries are not uncommon in the NFL, which often resumes play even after severe cases. But several current and former players have said Hamlin’s cardiac arrest felt especially disturbing as medical personnel fought to save his life while fans and players looked on.
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