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Damar Hamlin visits Capitol Hill to support bill promoting access to AEDs

Damar Hamlin embraces Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer during a press event in Washington on Wednesday. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
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Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, whose life was saved by swift-acting medical personnel and a portable defibrillator when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest during an NFL game in January, came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to raise awareness for legislation that would improve students’ access to the type of care that saved him.

Hamlin, with his 8-year-old brother and 10- and 11-year-old cousins by his side, spoke briefly at a press event advocating for the Access to AEDs Act, which was introduced on Wednesday in the House of Representatives and calls for schools to receive grants for the implementation of AED and CPR programs.

“To me, these kids represent why we are all here today. As I was growing up playing football, I don’t recall ever thinking about CPR or knowing where an AED was in my school or on the athletic field,” Hamlin said. “For those of you who played sports, I’d imagine your experience was similar. With my coaches on the field and my family in the stands, we didn’t plan what would happen if sudden cardiac arrest should happen to me or to one of my teammates. On Jan. 2, that all changed for me and my entire family, particularly my mom, Nina, and my dad, Mario, who are here with me today. Thankfully, the medical team with the Buffalo Bills was prepared and they saved my life.

“Sudden cardiac arrest happens to more than 7,000 kids under the age of 18 every year in our country — 7,000 kids every year,” Hamlin continued. “The majority of the kids impacted are student-athletes, and research shows that one in every 300 youths has an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk. For schools that have AEDs, the survival rate for children from sudden cardiac arrest is seven times higher. The Access to AEDs Act will help ensure that schools are just as prepared and trained to respond in a time of crisis as those on the sideline of an NFL game.”

Earlier this week, the NFL announced the launch of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition, partnering with the NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, NCAA, the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Korey Stringer Institute, National Athletic Trainers’ Association and Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation to push for all 50 states to adopt emergency action plans.

The NFL Foundation committed more than $1 million in grants, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, appearing remotely at Wednesday’s press event, said the newly formed “coalition of sports leagues and advocacy groups” would “start a 50-state campaign to ensure that all high schools have access to AEDs, coaches receive CPR instruction and emergency action plans are in place to respond to sudden cardiac arrest. These measures helped save Damar’s life and no doubt will save the lives of countless athletes in the future.”